Early morning awakening immersed in intense daily activity of a Monday morning and having a walk in the area of Missira to say goodbye to Bamako and to Mali, perhaps trying to keep in mind all the feelings and emotions experienced in these 4 days in Mali. A country that comes to its 50 years with many gaps and poverty where a group of very young people with projects are trying to build a solid foundation of Mali with courage, hope and a lot of passion.
We left to the airport around 10.30 am as planned with the feeling of leaving something or someone very dear behind. We said goodbye to our athletic driver in Mali and proceeded to the check-in and customs. Then we learned that we should leave behind one of the members of this “sudden” family; our sister Abir who could not get a visa for Senegal.
Bamako Airport is very small with 3 or 4 perfumes-, wallets- and liquor shops after passing through customs but there is not a single bar or restaurant where you can buy food or even water, forcing passengers to go back through the police control only to buy food or water. The outside temperature reaches 38 C or so.
The trip with Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767-300 took 2 hours. After landing at the international airport of Dakar (Leopold Sedar Senghor Airport), you could see the vast difference between Bamako and Dakar in terms of development of the city. When the doors of the aircraft opened, it was also evident that the climate was much cooler than in Mali from being at 35 C we were now in a very refreshing 22 C! Customs procedures were relatively easy.
Waiting for us outside the airport was the representantive of Novotel who diligently took to the hotel. On the way there, towards perhaps the westernmost point of Africa, Le Plateau, you can see the beautiful French colonial style buildings.
As scheduled, we were visited by the Cameroonian curator and critic Koyo Koho and the Senegalese architect Jean-Charles Tall who in a meeting of almost 2 hours presented their respective views on Dakar, architecture, history of the city but also of Senegal and of Africa, the current national situation in politics, religion, economy, population density, the importance of President Leopold Sedar Senghor in the art and the culture, etc …
From my perspective as a Venezuelan I find many similarities between Venezuela and Senegal according to what Koyo particularly highlighted in her presentation. Dakar and Caracas both suffer from high population density, high costs of living, blackouts, corruption, drug trafficking and drug consumption, and there have also been moments in each city when there was a cultural splendor under the auspices of the government who built solid institutions in Senegal such as Dakar University, Ecole de Pointe where the “cream“ of Senegalese political intelligence was educated and in the case of Caracas, the Central University of Venezuela and the Contemporary Art Museum of Caracas.
But in the end, having a large support from the government in the cultural sector would not allow independent action to take place or develop, because of this “comfortable” situation created. Apparently the situation of the “modernist aura” of Dakar, where there is a lot of art, openings, with a captive audience, as well as collectors, is completely different today, creating new independent initiatives such as the Raw Material Company of Koyo or the L’École des Sables. (Similar independent projects are happening in Caracas at this time). We hope to discover some of the “new” Dakar in the next 3 days.