Senegal is a complex, open and generally stable society, less than five decades after independence from colonialism under France. Dakar, the capital, is a cosmopolitan city thriving despite struggling with material want and against the stereotyped notion of Africans as hopeless basket cases. There is no famine here. There is no AIDs crisis. No genocide.

Dakar is peopled with individuals who are extracting every last drop of hope and hard-earned profit from a still-difficult economy. And they do it with a quiet — sometimes fierce — dignity seen in their eyes; with, perhaps, a graceful hand gesture, or kind word, or bawdy wit; or with an outfit which may in fact be the only piece of fashionable clothing a person owns, but impeccably turned out.

Here, then, are a handful of images from modern-day Dakar, balancing individual dignity, a rich cultural heritage, and desires fueled by ever-present globalization.

—Sharon Schoen