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
— Sharon Stark
FeatureReport from DakarSharon Stark presents a lighter side of Africa, with
global fashions and hip-hop culture.View Images
Report from Dakar
Sharon Stark presents a lighter side of Africa, with global fashions and hip-hop culture.View Images
Report from Dakar
Sharon Stark presents a lighter side of Africa, with global fashions and hip-hop culture.
"Life here, it’s a bit difficult. But it’s not too serious." These sayings, heard on occasion in Dakar, belie the Senegalese art of dignified understatement. © Sharon Stark
There is a melange of cultural influences in Dakar which may at first glance seem a jumble of mixed metaphors to the uninitiated. However, Dakarese ? like most global urbanites ? generally take a non-chalant attitude toward paradoxes and apparent incongruities. © Sharon Stark
Marie, N’Gom, and Sodeh sing tasso, a traditional form of improvised poetic song. Recently, it’s also referred to as "original hip hop", and not in the least jokingly. Daara J, a Dakar-based rap group ? who won the BBC Radio 3 Award for World Music, Africa 2004 ? © Sharon Stark
Although he lives in an outlying suburb of Dakar, and enjoys a much more traditional life than his counterparts who live or work in central Dakar, this butcher’s old school style looks like it might have been lifted directly from an early 1980s music video. © Sharon Stark
Mame Ngor M’Boup of Baye Fall Sisteme music management poses for a snapshot, while he explains that Senegalese hip hop is number three in the world after the U.S. and France. He projects that Senegal could soon move up the ranks. © Sharon Stark
Nana is the hot haircutter in Dakar, and the style-conscious line up for hours for one of his cuts. © Sharon Stark
Lemou Diop is a gifted singer and Simba performer. The Simba is a recent theatrical revival of ritual dances that were performed by secret lion and leopard societies generations ago. Young people train for years to be a Simba, mastering the art of convincing growling, fire breathing, and razor blade eating. © Sharon Stark
The owner of Slam Dunk supplies Dakarese with the latest looks from abroad. © Sharon Stark
Friends read cowrie shells, a form of fortune telling, and share recent snapshots. © Sharon Stark
Dakar youth have created their own slang which interweaves words from many languages, including Wolof, French, English, Italian, Arabic, and Spanish. It’s said that this idea was inspired by former President Senghor’s cosmopolitan student days in Paris. As a result, you may hear sentences such as "Graule, parce-ce que, no problem. Ok, ciao!" © Sharon Stark
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