Rue de Longue Vie

The first novel in my upcoming trilogy has a working title Rue de Longue Vie – or: Street of Long Life – and it tells a story that happens mostly in Senegal, with backslashes in Brussels and Nouakchott. Yesterday I went to collect some visual support that I can later use when I write about Brussels related events and now I feel like I should do this more often! This was a quick hop to the Midi station and Gare de l’Ouest, then a ten-minute-walk around two blocks in Ixelles with a fast-paced point-and-shoot tactics. A couple of times I felt like like a voyerist or private eye (too much TV maybe?), the essential thing was to capture something essential that I need in the story. The devil is in the detail!

Point E

Point E

Bi ma njëkkee ñëw Dakar lu jege ñaar fukki at ci Plateau laa daloon ci goxu jaaykat yi ci “centre-ville”. Waaye, bi ma tambalee dal ci Yoff walla Ngor ci ben néég walla studio, ñaari gox yépp nekk ci bët gannaaru dëkk bi, te bi ma miinee koñ yooyu ci wetu géég gi, laa leen def sama dëkkuwaay. Boo tammee dem ci yenn gox yi nga xamantane dangay lëkkëlook waa foofu te mbirum tourisme yobbuwula, mbir yi dañuy yomb lool ci yow. Booy faraldi dem ci benn bërëb ay yooni yoon, dangay mel ni ku fa bokk ba romb sax waa foofu. Ku mësa nekk Senegal ku nekk war na xam li may wax foofu. Kon, fan yii dama xalaat ne wut beneen dëkkuwaay dina wara nekk lu neex. Bu ma leen laajoon lan ngeen may digal ci ban koñ laa wara dëkk? 

Am na yenn gox ci Dakar yu ma neex lool, su fekkee sax xamuma noonu bërëb yooyu. Xëyna bërëb yooyu dafay mel ni lu nekk ci man te damay am lu may yëg buma nekkee ci bërëb yu ni mel. Xam naa ne dafay niirook lu doy waar, waaye bi ma nekkee xale dama féntal sama bopp am po taxoon ma mënoona jàpp ci sama xel ay mbir yu bare ci ay gox, koñ, tali, garab, kër ak lépp lu taxaw ca bërëb ba ma nekk. Mësuma bayyi jikko jooju te léégi bumay fatteliku Dakar, Point E mooy njëkka ñêw ci sama xel ni dëkku taax, ak ay taleem yu bari yëngu yëngu, garabam yu am ker yi, dugg génn ya ca daara ju kawe ja. Point E dafa boole gox bu bare yëngu ak ay bërëbam yu amul benn coow yi te bi ma njëkkee teg samay tànk ci taleem yi am na ay at léégi, dafa meloon ni dama fa xam ba pare. Te mënuma wax lu waral loolu. Dafa meloon ni dama xam gox bi ba noppi te xame ko dafa yomboon lool ci man. Te am na piscine olympikam bi nga xamantane dafa may xëcc ma fay dem di fééy. Bi nga xamee ne léégi dama ne dama bëgga bokk ci waa dëkk bi, gis naa ne fii laay nekk.

Ci atum 1946 «Plan Directeur d’urbanisme» dafa tëraloon ay sart ngir nit ñi ci Point E topp ay yoon yuy yemale tabax yi ngir nekkin yu neex ci gox bi. Fan yii li am ci gox boobu jeggi na dayo ndaxte ñungi gis ay tabax yu kawe di juddu fépp ci biir gox bi. Foofu dafa soppeeku ci ni mu meloon ci dëkkuwaay gu neexa nekk ak ay tabax yu kawe.

Ba léégi mënuma xam lu waral ñuy woowe Point E noonu. Su fekkee am na ku nu mëna xamal lan la “E” bi di tekki, nungi lay déglu! Dakar du la mësa naqari, rawatina turi kóminam yi ak arondismà am yi. Gueule Tapée itam tur bu am solo – gox bu rafet itam – ak Patte d’oie koñ yu ma gëna neex lañu. Buñu fatte SICAP itam, SICAP dafa lëkkëloo ak lu rafet lu mel ni: Baobab, Amitié, Keur Gorgui… Sama kumpa du jeex ci bëgga xam lu waral ab bërëb ñu tudde ko tur wi mu yore. Dinaa ñëwaat lu gëna leer ci loolu ci beneen “post” bu bees. 

Ab laaj: lan mooy sa bërëb walla koñ bu la gëna neex ci Dakar? Ndax am nga fenn ci dëkk bi foo sopp walla foo bëgga dëkk, te su amee, mën nga nu wax lutax? Maangi leen di gërëm bu baax ci seen ndimbal. 

A post-covid face lift

This is a short update to what has bee going on in my neighborhood in Saint-Louis since November 2020. The island has become one massive construction site with new canalization and soon-to-be paved streets and cemented sidewalks. It feels as if everybody were preparing for the better day, including the town planners – a new post-covid face lift in the making? Apart from this, life goes on more or less the usual way except for small businesses, many of which are still in an extended waiting mode for the borders to be opened to non-residents or European tourists. When the day comes, we will all be able to walk the streets with a little less sand in our sandals!

Dubai Fever

When I see cityscapes with the silhouettes of skyscrapers, I often wonder: how do these massive buildings make you feel in a city? Urban? Contemporary? Modern? Proud? Chic? Rich? Poor? Small? 

Addis downtown area and some other parts of the city are growing fast into the skies creating striking contrasts with older buildings that are still standing next to them. You can’t but wonder whether Addis is contaminated with what is known as “Dubai fever?” This syndrome, or Dubaiization manifests itself with the desire to copy an urban model lined with capital and power, and it gives you the impression of a city designed overnight. Buildings look as if they were imported from another location and planted to a new one without the original context. This cut and paste method leaves out local history altogether. 

When I was strolling the streets of Addis I could still feel the historical identity of the city in some neighborhoods but at the same time I noticed that many buildings had simply disappeared since my last visit and had been replaced by massive gated construction sites. The city certainly has interesting and challenging times ahead! This really is the time to document the amazing transformation that is taking place in Addis. My humble contribution to this documentation will be visible in the upcoming exhibitions for Afropolis 2020

If you would like to read more about the Dubai Fever, I recommend the article by Katriina Stoll: “Dubai Fever. The Dream of an Urban Model in Ethiopia” in Cities of Change: Addis Ababa by Mark Angélil and Dirk Hebel (Birkhäuser, Basel 2016).

Tata no 36 to Guediawaye

I hopped on a Tata bus no 36 that takes you from Ngor Garage to Guediawaye. These small Tata buses get packed with passengers very fast but on this particular trip I even had a seat! I like public transport in cities and not the least because using it really gives you a sense of place, provided that you have unhindered access to a window while you travel. Taking the bus in almost any Senegalese city is often a “full body experience” with frequent stops and engagements with fellow passengers. I am rather impressed by the ability of the Senegalese to make space in a bus that already looked too full a long time ago, and by their collaborative nature to make the coins travel from hand to hand towards the cashier who sits at the back of the bus and whom you can barely see when the bus is full. 

Dakar has numerous methods of mobility that shows just how effectively formal and informal economies work simultaneously. Just like any African metropolis, Dakar has its polarized nature with gated, rich residential areas and poorer overcrowded suburbs and peri-urban districts with failing infrastructure. And yet, all city dwellers move around easily according to needs and wallets either within their own zone, across the city, or commuting between the suburb and downtown areas.

I would usually take a Tata bus between Yoff and Ngor if it were not during the worst rush hour, in which case I would prefer a taxi or a clando. Tata buses and the bigger Dakar Dem Dik buses operate in most parts of the city and the latter has also a long-distance network covering different cities. Within the city you also have the famous colourful car rapideminibuses, and the ndiaga ndiaye vans-transformed-into-buses with boys hanging from the rear of the van, shouting their destinations and cashing the money in. The ndiaga ndiayes take you just about anywhere, and so do the sept-place cars that occupy the gare routière stations and operate between towns across the country. 

There is also a massive army of yellow taxis in Dakar. They will frequently honk right behind you if they are vacant and spot you in the street. Be warned: if you’re on a schedule, even the yellow taxis can let you down. I’ve had a few taxi rides where the taxi would break before reaching the destination, so better to be a little picky and choose the best looking car if possible. Sometimes the taxi does not even have a license and the driver takes you on a surprise sightseeing tour because he wants to avoid possible controls. On a more positive note: I once forgot my smartphone in a taxi and after several calls to my own number another customer picked it up and told not to worry, the driver would return my phone as soon as he could, which he eventually did!

In direct competition with the yellow taxis you have its “clandestine” version, the clando, that has proven to be very efficient in some areas of the city with their cheap fare and clever networks that cover important arteries between districts. They are practical, cheap and fast. These are just private cars that drive back and forth between fixed departure and arrival stops. In rush hours you need to be quite alert to get a seat, particularly so if you’re a tubaab: the drivers might not even think of stopping to pick you up unless you give a clear sign.

When the first motorways were being constructed in Dakar, it used to take even three hours to drive from Yoff to Diamaguène. People got used to the fact that to get from one place to another was slow – what choice did they have? And now with ready motorways and much improved bus network things are looking better. But the rush hours can still make your trip painfully slow because the number of people in the city just keeps increasing and especially because private cars are choking the streets of Dakar, crippling the public transport system and poisoning the environment. You need a lot of nerve to be a commuter in this city! My ride from Ngor to Guediawaye on a Friday morning took a little less than two hours although I got – typically – excited just watching through the window so much so that I lost track of time. So it may well be that the trip was even shorter. 

There is one thing missing in Dakar though, and that’s tram. I would so much love to see Dakar have a network of trams operating at least on the South-North and West-East axis. Obviously, this would require good governance with strong emphasis on sustainability – and of course money.

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For a very entertaining reading on taxi rides in cities like Lagos and Yaoundé I suggest you keep on reading: “Taxi Drivers who Drive Us Nowhere” by Howard M-B Maximus, written for Bakwa 09: Taxi Drivers who Drive Us Nowhere and other Travel Stories.