Monday, October 26, 2009
This is my guide and new friend Almamy
after negotiating with the taxi driver.
In Dakar most transactions are negotiable.
The Artist and Teacher who taught me about beads
and the slave trade that went through Dakar
I arrived in Dakar after midnight on Thursday, Oct 22 after spending eight nights in Zambia. I left Lusaka around mid-day and flew two hours south to Johannesburg, South Africa, before returning 8 plus hours northwest to Senegal. Getting from place to place in Africa seldom involves straight lines, and often requires changing directions. By the time I found my luggage and got a shuttle to the hotel and checked in it was 5 a.m. in Zambia, but only 3 a.m. in Senegal which is two time zones west of Lusaka. It is what it is.
Senegal is a predominantly Muslim, French speaking country on the extreme western edge of West Africa. In addition to French, many local languages are spoken here. Because it is located on the Atlantic Ocean Dakar is an important port, and was a major site for the shipping of slaves to America. Millions of African men, women and children passed through Dakar in bondage en route to the West Indies and America. While visiting the markets here I purchased some beads. The artist who made the beads explained to me the significance of the colors and designs of the beads. Some of the beads are replicas of beads that were traded for slaves. It is a disturbing and eerie feeling to be standing in the marketplace where such crimes against humanity occurred. I have visited Hiroshima, Japan, Achil Island, (Famine Monument) Ireland, the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, and the Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania. Each time I visit a site that commemorates such loss of life and sadness I’m reminded how vitally important it is that we teach and study history.
Dakar is a busy city, vibrant with life, teeming in colors, sounds and rhythms. The Senagalese are world renowned for their drumming, music, art, and fabrics. This is my first visit to a country where people of the Muslims faith are in the majority. A Senegalese teacher and new friend here told me Senegal is 85% Muslim. So much of what I have seen, heard, and experienced here flies in the face of how Islam is portrayed in America. I’ve had it explained to me here by Muslims that messages conveyed by the extreme fundamentalists only represent a very small percentage of Muslims and that Islam is a peaceful religion. I knew that before I came here but to see and hear it in person made a strong impression on me.
In future postings I’ll report on a remarkable day I spent visiting the markets with my Muslim guide and new friend Almamy, and also tell you about all the new people and classrooms joining Bridges of Peace and Hope.