We are on a blue planet. The only one we have.
We are on a blue planet. The only one we have.
One of the many wildlife denizens of Meru National Park – the Blackbacked Jackal on the hunt.
Meru National Park in Kenya is about an eight hour hard drive north of Nairobi. It’s at the end of a roller coaster ribbon of tarmac that dribbles out into a ragged length of potholes at the entrance to this magnificent park. Needless to say, not a lot of people drive there – they tend to fly in. Home to the Born Free legend it’s breathtaking in its vastness, which unrolls northward into wild savannahal plains.
“Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.”
“The rhythm is below me, the rhythm of the heat. The rhythm is around me, the rhythm has control. The rhythm is inside me, the rhythm has my soul.”
In this day of mutable virtual realities, the idea that a mid-twentieth century psychologist, Carl Jung, has anything to say of lasting relevance in our distractible times seems laughable. Yet, Peter Gabriel wrote a song called, “The Rhythm of the Heat”, about Jung’s visit to Africa and its profound impact on him when confronted with unconscious forces beyond his control. Here’s what Gabriel had to say about the song:
“With the track ‘Rhythm of the Heat’ which was based on the story of Carl Jung going to Africa and becoming so mesmerized by some drums that he felt he’d lost himself and became part of this dancing mass; of a really important Western mind losing himself really in something more primitive and more instinctive. So that was quite an interesting relationship, and in the music we tried to do that as well, and it ends up in this big African drum explosion at the end with Ekome who’s a wonderful master drummer.”
If you’ve ever been on a long haul flight in cattle class then you’ve felt the existential despair of this guy in the middle seat. This clever ad by Virgin America is a 5 hour and 46 minute absurdist commentary on contemporary travel in sub-par airlines. It’s full of excruciating ennui, quiet desperation and moments of understated hilarity. If you make it through the entire video, then you deserve an immediate upgrade to another airline. If you don’t have the time for the full video, then go here. Enjoy!
Every year St. Louis, Senegal hosts an international jazz festival, which is appropriate for a town that seems like an African counterpart to New Orleans. Even the slang terms used by long ago American jazz hipsters may have had its roots in the Wolof language of Senegal.
For example, the word “hip”, as, “Are you hip, man?” or “He’s a hep cat!” may have come from the Wolof word, “xipkat” meaning “one whose eyes are open”. Or the term, “dig”, as in “Can you dig it?, may have its antecedent in the Wolof word, “degg”, meaning “understand”.
The above St. Louis street scene tries to capture some of that honky-tonk swing flowing between Africa and America. Can you dig it, man?
The rich color palette of the streets of St. Louis, Senegal. The communal nature of this small, densely packed fishing community lays out it’s laundry for everyone to see, including sheep and goats.
Anyone who has ever lived or traveled in the drylands of Africa will recognize elements of this scene: orange light filtered through fine dust and a shimmering late afternoon heat. The town of Mandera, Kenya is where the country joins Ethiopia and Somalia in a volatile mix of ethnic, nationalist and Islamist aspirations. This particular visit was especially memorable for me because I got heat stroke. Despite it’s physical remoteness, I never felt alone. I traveled with a team of water technicians who were rehabilitating boreholes servicing largely Somali communities. We traveled widely and slept in tents close to camels and other livestock, so I always felt close to the lifeblood of these tough and resourceful people.
Over the course of several days last week, I watched this Senegalese fisherman push his canoe out into the ocean to try his luck with his fishing net. He must have made dozens of casts each morning resulting in only a handful of small fish. I admired his calm, zen-like perseverance despite it all.
For years, giant Asian and European factory fishing trawlers plundered Senegal’s coastline. This had a devastating effect on the coastal fisheries, which is still being felt today. Unfortunately, it’s because of exploitation like this in the “developing world” that the little guys suffers.
This was the last week of the Dak’Art 11th African Contemporary Art Biennial in Dakar, Senegal. It was a fabulous showcase of artists from all over Africa and African artists in Europe. With over 280 sites around the city, we were kept busy for two weeks running from venue to venue. Dakar is truly cosmopolitan when it comes to the visual, fashion and musical arts.
For me, dusk is the period of reflection on the day’s activities. It’s transiency reminds me that as important as we think of ourselves, now, nature is in it for the long run.
I’ve written elsewhere in my blog of the genocide in Rwanda. For me, a defining absurdity of this catastrophe (apart from the government’s orchestration of this mass murder) were the visual counterpoints one sometimes saw in the landscape. One such example was this bullet-riddled billboard on a major road in Kigali. Sometimes, I wonder if it is still there.
Sometimes wandering the hills in Africa can seem like a hot, dusty and tiring proposition. But shift the perspective away from yourself and you may see something different. This photograph of myself was made at Les Collines de Niassam, Sine Saloum, Senegal.
Not everyone wants their photograph taken and I respect that. This photo was made on the coast of Senegal near Palmarin in the Sine Saloum area.
Everyday life in the rural areas of Senegal can be magical – especially if you live in a forest of baobabs! I made this photograph on the way to a coastal bird sanctuary outside of Joal Fadiouth.
As a follow up to my last post, “Surfing, Pointe des Almadies”, here’s another surfing photo from the same area. In the iconic ’60s surfer film, “The Endless Summer”, the world tour begins, fittingly enough, in Senegal not far from where I took this photo. Just watch out for the rocks!
This month marks one year since I moved back to Senegal. Today, I was pedaling around my neighborhood in Point des Almadies, Dakar and I came across this rustic beachfront hangout. I prefer these places to the sterility of high rise (and high priced) beach development. You can’t manufacture this kind of charm.
This past week, I attended the Jazz and Arts Festival in St. Louis, Senegal. It was a raucous celebration of fusion, funk, and classical jazz forms with an African twist. The days were spent exploring the island of Ndar and its 19th century (UNESCO protected) colonial buildings in various states of genteel decay. Along the way, we dropped in at the various galleries catering to the hip crowd. We discovered a small artist’s studio tucked into a side street next to our hotel and discovered a wonder. This is the atelier of Meissa Fall, who describes himself as an “Artiste Artisan” and repairer of mechanical and electrical things. He is chiefly a soft spoken imp who makes witty sculptures out of recycled motor parts.