Spirit of Photography

Share Your Work => Travelogues => Topic started by: Cindy Miller Hopkins on May 26, 2010, 05:43:18 AM

Title: West Africa 3 - The colorful side of Africa
Post by: Cindy Miller Hopkins on May 26, 2010, 05:43:18 AM
The colorful side of Africa

Most countries around the world should not be judged by their port cities. Normally, they are overpopulated with transients as people come and go looking for work. The same is certainly true for West Africa. In my opinion, Bombay and Saigon still hang on to the top two spots for the most crowded and trash saturated cities in the world. But, West Africa especially in Darkar, Senegal & Banjul in The Gambia are on the fast track to joining the ranks of the dirtiest, and most pungent, port cities in the world. If you cant do it in public in Banjul, it just can not be done! This includes scores of people getting off the sardine packed ferries and promptly taking a shit on the beach then, walking ten feet and happily doing their laundry in the surf they just defecated in. Population and poverty push everything to the limits, apparently including common sense.

As a tourist visiting a variety of port cities, I can honestly say that I have never been flipped-off or cursed out in more interesting languages than I have over the past 3 weeks. Toss in some extremely interesting rude gestures, natives trying to piss on people, and even being threatened with a few rocks and bricks and any sane person would go home and never return.  BUT wait this was all in the port and as I said at the beginning countries should never be solely judged by their ports.

Just a 15 minute drive from the city center, things start to calm down. You find yourself unclenching your camera and backpack to once again allow blood to flow down to your fingertips. Thirty minutes from town, you actually set your personal belongings next to you on the seat and start to enjoy the towns you are passing by. Rundown crumbling buildings with open sewers turn into smaller brightly painted homes. An hour out of downtown, when the countryside opens its inviting arms, you actually relax and take in the sights. The streets are cleaner and the people are calmer. They smile as you pass. Some seem just as interested in you as you are in them. A few locals start to wave and even blow kisses. This cant possibly be the same planet that I was on just an hour ago?

West African villages are still, for the most part, run by a chief or elder. He makes the rules and enforces them. Rules what a concept. Some people find great pleasure in breaking the rules. Im not one of them. In general, Im a rule follower. Question the rules? Certainly. Push the rules once in a while? Of course. But I truly find no pleasure or conquest in breaking the rules just for the sake of breaking them. So Im comfortable in the villages. The chief introduces himself to our group. He welcomes us in the traditional way, by pouring milk or water (both more valuable than fine wine) on the ground we are walking on as we enter the village. He tells us that we are welcome to explore his village but asks us to please NOT give anything to the children no coins no candy. He is proud. His village is proud. IF you would like to give something to the village, donations to the school are happily accepted, and we happily gave. He does not tolerate his people littering his village, and asks us to follow the same rules. I like it. Im comfortable here. This was repeated in many of the small rural villages. The huts were dirt but ten times cleaner than in town. There was no trash. No pooping in the streets. No pushing and shoving. This is who the real locals are. Clean, respectful of themselves and others. They wanted desperately to go to school and get an education. They worked hard to better themselves. They dress in colorful attire and made brightly painted batiks and crafts. They took great pains to sand a wooden bowl until perfectly smooth and then polish it to a high shine. Many decorate themselves with beautiful henna tattoos or permanent scarification. Young and old alike were kind and friendly.

Here in the villages children are the same as everyplace in the world. Little girls are shy while older girls like your hair or the color of your toenail polish. The women want to touch your necklace and then show you their earrings. For us women, it is always the same. We love to look at pretty things. For the boys its the same too. Little boys are just genetically configured to make funny faces and then run. If there is a puddle you MUST jump in it. And for some unknown mystery to us girls, if there is a rock you must throw it. They have no choice, there it is calling to them to chuck it as hard a possible at a wall, a chicken, or even better yet your little sister! This is what makes us all the same around the world. Color, language, religion, location, or economics we are all the same as children. It is only as adults we change.

I encourage everybody to think as we did as a child except for the rock tossing part!

Title: Re: West Africa 3 - The colorful side of Africa
Post by: keithsnell on May 26, 2010, 08:17:47 AM

Thank you for the wonderful description.  It matches perfectly with the beautiful smiles in the latest batch of images you posted.  I think you are becoming a writer too!

I share your view of the big cities vs the country.  We see it here too, just not to the same extent.  It is a sad irony that when people are packed into a city they become "disconnected," from community and from the rhythms of our natural world.  I'm very glad you were able to share the other view of Africa with us.

Thank you!

Title: Re: West Africa 3 - The colorful side of Africa
Post by: prairiedust on May 27, 2010, 02:43:30 AM
It's a fascinating collection of images, and lets us explore with you as you travel.
Title: Re: West Africa 3 - The colorful side of Africa
Post by: Cindy Miller Hopkins on May 27, 2010, 03:26:50 AM
Thanks all for your comments. It is an interesting place for sure. I'm on my way to the Canary Islands next, then on to Spain & Portugal. I won't have much time to write or upload more images until I get home in a few weeks, but once I get everything sorted out I will do my best to post "the best" Thanks for all of your support!

Cindy - CMH Images