Final Day in Dakar

November 8, 2007, Institut Fondamental de l’Afrique Noire (IFAN) Museum, Dakar, Senegal

Due to an unfortunate incident with a young man who was trying to steal money from me, I spent my last evening in Dakar cooped up inside the hotel. Part of the evening was entirely dark due to a blackout. The hotel chef was kind enough to prepare a vegetarian meal for me and I met an interesting Algerian business guy for a chat at the hotel bar.

My final day in Dakar, I went to the Institut Fondamental de l’Afrique Noire (IFAN) Museum.

Entrance of Institut Fondamental de l Afrique Noire Museum, IFAN, Dakar, Senegal

The museum had interesting exhibits of the various peoples of West Africa and their masks and other ritual objects. I took a lot of notes.

Afterwards, I tried to mail some heavy documents at the post office. I had to take a taxi to a special post office for mailing packages and they told me it would cost almost US$100 to mail 7 kilos of printed materials. I decided to wait for Mali to see if it would be cheaper. The taxi rides around town and to the airport provide an excellent opportunity to get an idea of the terrain in Dakar.

Another View of the Peul Mosque, Dakar, Senegal Grand Mosque, Dakar, Senegal

Front of Elhamdulilah Bus, Dakar, Senegal Terrain on Route to Airport, Dakar, Senegal More Terrain on Route to Airport, Dakar, Senegal

Notes from IFAN Museum in Dakar:

Women’s initiation, Mande, Sierra Leone, masks showing stages of initiation

Nigerian sanctuary statues from near Port Harcourt, River State

Ekoi, Nigeria, Janus helmet, River State

Initiation of boys, Bassari, Senegal, circumcision at age 13, to become a man and learn mystical, technical, and artistic knowledge, large round masks around face with frame structured

Initiation of boys, Boukout or Bukut, Diola, Senegal, every 20-25 years in different villages, announced 3-4 years in advance, ceremonies, festivals, dances, sacrifices, Kuisen ceremony – maskes with horns called ejumba, in Balingore region other masks called samaï and niagarass

Diola, Senegal, couple statuettes, Bignona

Diola, Senegal, giant carved wood pitchers with handle (shape like beer stein) for palm wine, Ziguinchor regionally

Baga people in Guinée, banda or kumbaduda is long horizontal mask combining royal crocodile, chameleon, antelope, and human imagery with colorful geometrical representations, man metamorphosing into a genie

Baga, tam-tam drum on wood stand

Bidjogo, Guinée, archipel de Bissagos, Ile de Ponta, hippo mask

Ghana, Ashanti, Asipim, ceremonial chair, wood, leather, and copper(?) tacks

Ghana, Ashanti, large ceremonial tambour drums, pegs mid-level stretch animal skin attached by cords over the top, intricate geometrical and symbolic designs on base

Ivory Coast, Sénoufo, maternity statue – baby at breast, statue of woman

Mali, Segon (or Ségou), Bamabara, “Chi-Wara? or “Tyiwara?, worn on top of woven cap with cowries, i.e. top of head, one of six “confrèries? in which Bamabara is initiated, mythical hero related to cultivation of the earth, also stylized antelope carvings

Nimba and D’mba, of the Baga and others, ideal image of feminine in society, also have fecundity figure, both with pendulous breasts

Boke, Guinée, Baga, Yombofissa, ritual animist object for female initiation preparation

Kout’ala (or Koutiala), Mali, Manianka wood statuette of mother carrying child on back

Cameroon, Bamiléké mast for curing sterile women, has lengthy phallus

Benin, Porto Novo, Tôhôlu statue representing water spirit with HUGE hanging phallus

Ghana, Kumassi (Kumasi), fecundity puppet, Akwaba statuette, shaped almost like ankh symbol (see drawing in journal)

Ghana, Cape Coast, Fanti puppet for fecundity

Ghana, Kumashi (Kumasi), Ashanti double fecundity puppet

Mali, Sikasso, Manianka statuette, hands on belly holding face

Ivory Coast, Senoufo, creator of world god named Koulotiolo, mother of the village god Katiéléo

Pono (or Poro?) initiation rituals in sacred forests, three cycles of seven years is 21 years, receive ritual names at each level, proofs of endurance, secret language

  • Poworo, children 7-12 years old, farming and intro to initiation
  • Kwonro, adolescents, liturgical rites, ceremonial dances, and warrior training
  • Tyologo, 12 levels depending on knowledge with top level called Kafa around 30 years old

Ivory Coast, Karogo, Senoufo, Masque-Cimier, Nayogo, beautiful cowrie-studded mask with beak and long tail

Senoufo info: present-day Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Mali, Ghana–

Poniugo = zoomorph masks

A. Helmet masks:
1. Poniubolo
2. Gpeligeniugu
3. Waniugo

B. Frontal masks:
1. Navigue
2. Nasolo (or Nagolo)

Kpelihe anthromorphic masks

1. Kpelihe korrigo
2. Kpelihe kodalu


1. Noukorgo
2. Niara
3. Najago
4. Goro


1. Grand Calao: Setien
2. Maternity: Nong
3. Guardian: Nanferre
4. Pilon: Deble
5. Mythical Ancestor: Pombibele
6. Statuette: Madebele
7. Magical: Kafi Gueledo
8. Canes: Daleu

Masques Cagoules: Kodalu

1. Niongbelleque
2. Kouto
3. Kama
4. Kpakpayira
5. Yaladiogo (or Yaladogo)
6. Kakpolefala
7. Niarou
8. Yebligue

Mali, Dogon, days of mourning in which women wear cowrie masks covering their faces, other masks too, Mopti, Sikasso regions

Mali, Dogon, Mopti region, Bandiagara circle, pillar “d’abri des hommes?

Several “magic? figures from Ivory Coast (masks for singers):


Nigeria, Yoruba, Oya, Ibadan region, polychromatic mask, also statue of woman holding “une coupe?, Gélédé society for prosperity of women

Benin, Fon, Abomey province, divining cup, carved wooden bowl on stand in shape of bird, Pierre Verger received it from son of the last great Bokono king, also textiles with allegorical stories, colorful appliqué technique, also iron and copper “autel? for royal ancestors, Asen

Mali, Bambara, special clothing for hunter, triangular geometric design, also Ségou region – cane of culture with carved head on top, also marionette, also long mask of Komo society

I’m a Fan of IFAN

November 7, 2007, Institut Fondamental de l’Afrique Noire (IFAN), Dakar, Senegal

After an impressive interview in French with archaeologist and historian Charles Becker on November 6 at his home near the home of the President of Senegal, I next went to interview Hamady Bocoum, Minister of Culture in Senegal and Researcher at the Institut Fondamental de l’Afrique Noire (IFAN), University of Cheikh Anta Diop, that interview also conducted in French. (Mille fois merci to my high school French teachers!)

Entrance of Institut Fondamental de l Afrique Noire, IFAN, Dakar, Senegal Mural and Cheikh Anta Diop Monument, Institut Fondamental de l Afrique Moderne, IFAN, Dakar, Senegal Hamady Bocoum, Minister of Culture in Senegal and Researcher at the Institut Fondamental de l Afrique Noire, IFAN, University of Cheikh Anta Diop

M. Bocoum told me as much as one could in one hour about the role of the blacksmith (forgeron) in African history. He mentioned Soumaoro Kanté, who was a blacksmith king. Sundiata battled him to start a new dynasty and Kanté lost. He recommended reading La geste du Sonjiata.

Boucom feels that the story of the battle represents a battle over African values. Kante represents African independence, ingenuity, and self-awareness. Sundiata represents transahelianism, Islam. Kanté opposed slavery.

He summarized with three contrasts:

  1. Cultural – traditional religion v. Islam
  2. Economic – blocking river traffic and water rights
  3. Technical – inventors and blacksmiths

Now, he says, Africans are consumers to the detriment of producers.

He talked about the supposed caste system which he feels does not really exist in Africa, at least not anything like what happens with the untouchables in India.

He mention reading about the caste system in Sudan and a book called Mande Blacksmith: Knowledge, Power and Art in West Africa (by Patrick R. McNaughton).

Regarding the existence of a caste system in West Africa, Bocoum mentioned:

  1. Structuralism
  2. Concepts of pure and impure
  3. Triumph of consumers over producers

He said that blacksmiths were the ones who invented the state in this part of Africa.

He referred to his L’Age de Fer au Senegal (which I later copied parts of at the tremendous IFAN library).

Bocoum doesn’t believe there was a taboo against blacksmiths either. He described the concept of the societal norm versus the structure, giving the example of how burping is normal and good for the health but considered impolite in many societies.

There was a sense that the work of a blacksmith is the work of the devil. After 2000 years of the domestication of fire, the blacksmiths were the only ones who knew the secrets of transforming stone into metal, a kind of alchemy, a magic/technology.

He mentioned how the blacksmiths had sacrificial ceremonies to do their work and how people who weren’t blacksmiths couldn’t participate in that work.

Once the work of the blacksmith was no longer secret and became democratized, the blacksmiths no longer had a monopoly and lost their power. That started to occur by the 11th century but didn’t happen completely until the 16th century.

In some societies, it was also taboo to make love to or marry a blacksmith, but it still happened.

Bocoum also mentioned a novel called L’Enfant noir by Camara Laye.

He said there was more of a system of domination than a caste system. The system of domination helped generate a class structure (Marx).

The wives of blacksmiths were usually potters, hairdressers, tattoo artisans (for men and women). Blacksmiths traditionally performed circumcisions.

Here are pictures of the entrance hall at IFAN.

Entrance Hall of Institut Fondamental de l Afrique Noire, IFAN, Dakar, Senegal Sculpture in Entrance Hall of Institut Fondamental de l Afrique Noire, IFAN, Dakar, Senegal Bust of Woman in Entrance Hall of Institut Fondamental de l Afrique Noire, IFAN, Dakar, Senegal

Dakar D’Accords?

This picture isn’t very clear but it shows how crowded some of the local transport in Dakar can be. There is also a lot of traffic on the main roads.

Guys Hanging Out of Elhamdulilah Bus in Dakar, Senegal

I also took pictures looking through the window and outside the window of the second room at the hotel in Dakar.

Window of My Second Room, Hotel Oceanic, Dakar, Senegal View From Window of My Second Room, Hotel Oceanic, Dakar, Senegal

This is one of the two large mosques I saw in Dakar, apparently related to the Peul people from the north.

Peul Mosque in Dakar, Senegal

Ile de Goree

November 4, 2007, Île de Gorée, Dakar, Senegal

When the ferry was ready for us, everyone in the waiting room squeezed through two small exits onto the dock. Then, we crossed over to the ferry with two guys grabbing each passenger to help them across the one foot wide step to get on board. Once on board, the two Germans and I sat on the upper deck. I chose a spot in the shade. In port next to us was a giant container and cargo ship, twelve stories tall. The ferry boat is new, launched in 2006 under the name of Beer. The Germans and I joked quite a bit about that… like, how come no free beer on board? 😉

Large Container Ship Viewed on Ferry From Dakar to Ile de Goree The Ferry Is New and Named Beer

From the ferry, we had excellent views back to the Dakar harbor and Cape Vert (I think it’s called).

View of Dakar Harbor From Ile de Goree Ferry More of Dakar Cape From Ile de Goree Ferry

Soon, we reached the open sea with magnificent views of Île de Gorée.

Getting Closer to Ile de Goree on the Ferry Approaching Ile de Goree on the Ferry

We sailed around the tip of the island where the fortress, now a museum, is located to get a great view of the harbor, beach, and seaside.

Round the Point of Ile de Goree on the Ferry The Beach at Ile de Goree From the Ferry Ile de Goree Fortress and Museum From the Ferry

The island boasts some wonderful old houses.

Colorful Old Houses on Ile de Goree From the Ferry

Once on land, we paid a tourist tax and walked toward the Maison des Esclaves (Slave House), which was closed for siesta time. On the way to the Maison, we saw this monument to the end of slavery with a man and some children having their photo taken alongside the monument.

Statue of the Liberation From Slavery, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal

We also saw a breadfruit tree with breadfruit hanging from its branches.

Jackfruit Tree, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal Jackfruits in Front of Colorful Old House, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal

We entered a cathedral with some black statues, as well as white ones.

Cathedral on Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal Black Figure in Cathedral, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal Second Black Figure in Cathedral, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal
On our way up to a peak where the old cannons are gradually rusting away, we saw many arts and crafts stands and paintings painted by local artists.

Craft Shops, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal Artist Shop on Top of Peak at Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal View From Peak Over Town on Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal

On the way down from the peak, we saw a local soccer game with some guys in real good shape.

Young Guys Playing Soccer, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal Young Guys Playing Soccer and One With Longhair, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal

We walked over to the port for lunch. A man tried to get us to eat at his restaurant, but I really wanted to eat at the place recommended by the Lonely Planet guidebook. Eventually we escaped his clutches and made our way over to the Ana Saban restaurant.

After lunch, we went to the Musée Historique de l’IFAN on the island.

Entrance of Musee Historique IFAN at Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal View From Top of Fortress Down Into Musee Historique, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal View From Fortress Over Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal

I somehow lost the Germans at the museum, so I walked alone back over past the beach to the Maison des Esclaves, now finished with their siesta break. I started by taking pictures of the “Door of No Return,” which was apparently the last place where slaves bound for the Great Passage across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas set foot on the African continent.

Door of No Return, Maison des Esclave, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal Closeup of Door of No Return, Maison des Esclave, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal

Here’s what it was like to stand just in front of the door out to where the slave ships used to load their human cargo and the sign currently posted by the Door of No Return.

Standing Just Before the Door of No Return, Maison des Esclaves, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal Sign by Door of No Return, Maison des Esclaves, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal

Inside the Maison des Esclaves, an exhibit explained about the history of the slave trade and showed some of the actual fetters used to bind slaves.

Shackles for Wrists, Maison des Esclaves, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal Shackle for Feet, Maison des Esclaves, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal

In a small museum office with lots of signs and sayings posted on the walls, there is an elder who must have helped to establish the museum. I went in to thank him for what he has done and he replied that to the contrary he must thank me for coming.

After the disturbing and moving museum, it was a real treat to be able to relax on the beach with locals and people visiting from all over the world. I met a sweet Italian fellow (married) who is working in nutrition in Africa. It was so much fun that the Germans and I had to run for the Beer ferry when it was time to go.

Italian Friend on the Beach, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal Beer Ferry Viewed From the Beach, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal

Beach, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal Another Beach View With Ferry, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal

To round out the evening, we dashed to Point des Almadies to see the sunset and eat dinner on the seashore.

Waiting for Ile de Goree

November 4, 2007, Île de Gorée Ferry Terminal Waiting Room, Dakar, Senegal

Mixed chatter of a friendly crowd waiting to board a ferry from Dakar to Île de Gorée. On the island, we find the Maison des Esclaves (Slave House) where rich white people cavorted in luxury above a basement where slaves languished in cages. There is some debate about how many slaves were actually transported through Gorée—most historians now agree the bulk of the slave trade left for the Great Passage across the Atlantic from slave fortresses further southeast along the African coast.

The temperature is hot and muggy and I’m sweating a lot.

Some people in the waiting room wear colorful clothing, a grey-haired elder gentleman with a sky-blue jalibaya, a woman next to him who may be his wife wearing a brilliant dress, geometrically patterned white linen over a turquoise layer matching the scarf ingeniously folded on her head, along with a diaphonous white scarf around her shoulders, several gold bracelets on her right wrist and a wristwatch on the left.

As each of the locals enter the room, they greet each person they know, and even those they don’t know who are nearby, with what seem somewhat cautious, reticent, or self-conscious handshakes and big heartfelt smiles. Mothers carry children on their laps or pass them to older siblings to care for them.

Besides me, the only foreigners I could see in the waiting room at first are a small group of Italian tourists with a fellow who ma be their Senegalese guide with whom they seem on quite familiar term—perhaps a family member?

Two women on either side of me participate in a typical greeting ritual, chatting back and forth with standard greetings and almost choreographed responses, but most of the discussion is less structured, with less of a sense of societal obligation.

Last evening, I wandered out of the hotel after a long jet-lag nap to find an Internet cafe and to eat dinner. As a white foreigner, it’s difficult to walk the streets of downtown Dakar without young men approaching you to be your guide or for some paid service in one way or another. Since I’m not intrigued by activities that generally focus on how to transfer money from my pockets into theirs, these interactions can at times be annoying, especially because I fell that my naïve friendliness on new encounters turns into a more jaded suspicious attitude with most people who now approach me on the street. As I asked a bank security guard for the location of an Internet cafe, another fellow who he seemed to trust approached me and said he’d lead me there. As I discovered afterwards, he intentionally walked me past the nearest open Internet cafe at Place de l’Indépendence so he could extend his chat with me about the luck he had in purchasing a bottle of beer and the great reggae party he was going to that evening. I kept telling him I had not interest and he kept offering and suggesting until I basically thanked him once last time and walked away.

At the Internet cafe, I couldn’t accomplish much in a hour at CFA300 because the keyboard had a strange layout and the spacebar got stuck every other time I pressed it.

When I finished, I asked the propreitor if I could bring in my own laptop, but he refused without giving me a good reason. In the cafe, one could also make telephone calls. I met two Germans who there to make calls home, a diplomat and his friend. At first I thought they must be a gay couple, but they explained their wives were back home in Berlin. We all went to dinner at a nearby restaurant called Keur N’Doye (N’Doye House), which had excellent food at a reasonable price and took care to prepare vegetarian food for me. The diplomat had traveled a bit through Africa though not really much to places I was going. His friend was born to a missionary father (and presumably mother) in Namibia. They returned to Germany when he turned six and later visited Namibia for a vacation when he was a teenager.

After dinner, we went our separate ways. I wanted to check out Cafe l’Iguane, rumored to have some gay activity. I walked over to it and found a place closed for renovations. Disappointed, I wandered a bit more looking for another interesting place without success, so I bought a bottle of water at one shop and a packet of laundry detergent at another, then headed back to the hotel.

This morning, the hotel receptionist told me I could switch from the larger higher-priced room to a smaller room for the original price I had expected, so I did. Then, I walked from the hotel to the port, waited in the sun to buy a ferry ticket, and entered the waiting room. The Germans from last night are now here.

German Guys I Met in Dakar Now on the Way to Ile de Goree