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For the Love of the Continent: A Young Gambian Blogger’s Africa Travelogue

For many young people, the idea of traveling across countries is enticing and appealing. It’s even more enticing when you travel for pleasure or for work you are passionate about. Sira Danso alias Chee Danso, a young Gambian activist and passionate photographer, has been traveling across Africa over the past few years to take part in multiple campaigns all geared towards advancing lives and livelihoods. Everywhere she goes, she documents her impression and experience in a travelogue.

Chee shares with The Chronicle some of her best experiences;

In the Street of Mushin

Mushin, Nigeria: I have never come across a street like Mushin in Lagos State. It is where I saw real thugs living a real gangster life, real thugs with tribal marks on their faces – their eyes red, and tattoos on their body, holding their bottles of liquor. These guys smoke weed everywhere. Mushin can smoke for the whole of Africa. The ghetto has a ringleader. But see, this is the place I wish to visit every time I visit Lagos. I could not capture my Mushin experience lol. I don’t really have the guts to snap these thugs or even show off my phone or camera. That’ll be too risky.

 The mushin

So here’s Mushin for you, in the absence of my phone or camera

A place where you see slay mamas becoming apprentice.

A place where the rich and the poor mingle, as one.

A place where all tribes stay together, marry each other.

A place where brother Sikiru the Vulcanizer hosts a party and you think it’s a Chairman hosting the party.

A place where you find rare talents.

A place where leaders are being brought up.

A place where you see bus conductors wooing passengers.

Where you see women taking their children to school with cane in their hands.

A place where people queue to fetch water at wee hours.

A place where you see frowning faces in the afternoon because of the sun rays.

A place where you see Mallams selling suya at night.

A place where I first see the #ShakuShakuDance.

For many observers of life in Mushin, they would prefer to call it ‘moonshine’ because it is a community that never sleeps! A typical night in Mushin brings to bear the good, the bad and the ugly in the ever-boisterous community. As you approach the vicinity from either the Mainland or Island, you meet a crowded community which announces to its first-time visitor, ‘welcome to a hustling and bustling community where men are laws unto themselves.‘ You could be harassed and even beaten, yet nothing would happen as the night rulers of the community take full charge. They would tell you ‘go bring your police.’ These social miscreants called Area boys (thugs), with their guttural voices, would let you know that all is well unless you try to show that you don’t want to reckon with them by refusing to drop something (money) for the boys.

Mushin used to be a volatile area where hooligans fomented trouble at the slightest provocation. The boys would indulge in liquor and hemp smoking without being apprehended by law enforcement agents. But because the law has really been hard on them in recent times, a good number of these boys have relocated to other places.

Adaramaja’s view: “Life in Mushin is the best anywhere in Lagos State. The town is strategically located and is easily accessible by visitors. I have been living in this area for about 18 years now and I can tell you that living elsewhere is certainly difficult for me. Those who say the town is notorious only want to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it. At night, I can get whatever I want without stress. If I return home late in the night and there is no food in the house, I can dash across the road to get a steaming plate of rice or garri with good stew. Policemen are virtually everywhere day and night, to ensure the safety of lives and property. Therefore, all is well with us here no matter what any negative thing is peddled by misguided people about Mushin.”

Accra through my Lens 

Accra, Ghana: Akwaaba! (welcome in the Akan language). It is a symbol of expressing the celebrated Ghanaian hospitality especially to foreigners. The expression of Akwaaba is so important that the Government placed the word at some of its entry points to demonstrate to visitors that they’re indeed welcome to Ghana. Akwaaba is the first thing you see as soon as you land at Kotoka International Airport and anywhere else; restaurants, hotels, markets, the streets etc. This is to demonstrate warmth, acceptance and peace. The Ghanaian people pride themselves on their hospitality. It is a nice way to welcome a stranger in your local dialect. For many people, Akwaaba is the first thing to remember about Ghana.

Chale Wote (translated as ‘friend let’s go’) is all about falling in love with yourself and what you love doing again. Some parts of Accra may be dirty, but the dirt has its own love.”

Theme (2017): Wata Mata” (West African pidgin for water matters) explores the resilience of art and creativity in hostile environment with an emphasis on adapting, re-envisioning, dreaming and pushing boundaries. Wata Mata tells the many stories behind water and other things. But the 2017 Festival was more than water. It was the craziest and biggest West African art festival ever. It’s purely art and could pass for Ghana’s biggest outdoor event. The event, first started in 2011, is aimed at creating an environment where audience will reconnect to nature through art.

The festival presents interactive street painting, photo exhibitions, food and fashion, marketplace, graffiti murals, theater, spoken word, interactive art installations, live street performances, extreme sports, film shows, fashion parade, music block party, recyclable design workshops and much more. The paintings from seasoned artists both local and international were enough to remind me of the theme for this year’s festival.

CHALE WOTE over the years has been the catalyst for the growth of Ghana’s creative arts industry. It creates the environment for arts to be appreciated and a platform for a bigger audience for arts by giving access to the general public.

There’s surely a story behind everything we see in this world, including the water we drink. And there is a deity called God.

Jozani Forest Area (Mwambao Traditional village)

Zanzibar: The Jozani Forest is a conservation area established in the 1960s in the core of Zanzibar Island. Covering an area of 50 square kilometers, this reserve also includes a section of the Jozani Chwaka National Park and was set up for the conservation of the kirk’s red colobus monkey, a beautiful and rare primate.

The forest also accommodates a large mangrove swamp and a tract of natural forest that is home to a few unique species including the Sykes monkey, bush babies, Ader’s duiker, over 50 species of butterfly and 40 species of birds.

A trip to Zanzibar wouldn’t be complete without seeing the endemic and endangered Zanzibar red colobus monkeys! These monkeys are the flagship species for conservation in Zanzibar and have suffered a decline in population due to widespread deforestation on the Island.

Zanzibar monkeys

I will cherish every single moment of this journey.

Dar es Salaam

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: (from Arabic: دار السلام‎ Dār as-Salām, “the house of peace”; former capital of Tanzania.

Until 1974, Dar es Salaam served as Tanzania’s capital city, at which point the capital city commenced transferring to Dodoma, which was officially completed in 1996. The city is located on the Swahili Coast. It’s the largest city in East Africa and one of the fastest growing cities in the world. It has a population of about 4.3 million. It’s also the largest and the most populous Swahili-speaking city in the world.

The city is an important economic centre and is said to be the richest city in Tanzania.

Notwithstanding, Dar es Salaam continues to remain a focus of central government bureaucracy. It is still Tanzania’s most prominent city in arts, fashion, media, music, film and television and a leading financial centre.

The city is the leading arrival and departure point for most tourists who visit Tanzania, including those who visit the national parks for safaris and the islands of Unguja and Pemba.

Kariakoo is a ward in the IIala District of Dar es Salaam. The name derives from a corruption of the British “Carrier Corps” that used to be based in this area. Today, Kariakoo is mainly known for its extensive market that spans several city blocks located on 67 Swahili Street.

This market is vital to local Tanzanians. It is the biggest market in East Africa and a huge variety of products are being sold, such as vegetables, fruits, spices, meat, household products, shoes bags and beads. You can just wander around it to see if there is anything that interests you. Everyone is willing to bargain a bit as long as you are in a buying mood and perhaps want more of what the vendors have to offer.

Be sure to bring local Tanzanian shillings or USD. In many situations, they prefer USD since their currency fluctuates quite a lot. Make sure you know the exchange rate if you are taking USD. The best shopping time is Saturday morning

I use Bajaji from City Style Hotel at Sinza Mugabe to the craft marketI enjoy the way it shakes. It’s also the cheapest mean of transport. So no bargaining.

Senegal’s impressive Le Monument de la Renaissance

Dakar, Senegal: The African Renaissance Monument (Le Monument de la Renaissance Africaine in French) is a 49-meter tall bronze statue located on top of one of the twin hills known as Collines des Mamelles, outside Dakar. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in the Ouakam suburb, the statue was designed by the prominent Senegalese architect Pierre Goudiaby Atepa after an idea presented by former president Abdoulaye Wade. It was built by North Korea’s Mansudae Overseas Projects.

Senegal monument

Preparation on top of the 100-meter high hill began in 2006, and construction of the bronze statue kicked off two years later. Originally scheduled for completion in December 2009, delays stretched it into early 2010, and the formal dedication occurred on 4th April, 2010, which coincided with Senegal’s “National Day”, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence from France.

It is the tallest statue in Africa.

The monument is made of 3-centimetre thick metal sheets and depicts a family group emerging from a mountaintop: a full-length statue of a young woman, a man, and held aloft on the man’s raised left arm, a child resolutely pointing west towards the sea.

On 3th April 2010, the African Renaissance Monument was unveiled in Dakar in front of 19 African heads of state, including presidents of Malawi, Benin, Cape Verde, Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, The Gambia, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania and Zimbabwe, as well as representatives from North Korea, US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and musician Akon.

Never go to Dakar and not visit the African Renaissance Monument.

Most of the info about the monument is from google and the monument’s curators.

Nike Art Gallery

Nike Art Gallery is named after its founder, Nike Davies Okundaye, a renowned artist and designer. He’s a Nigerian batik and textile designer who also lectures at Harvard University in the United States, and is cherished across the world for her great art works. 

Any contemporary art lover will appreciate visiting the Nike Art Gallery, undoubtedly one of the most important and influential modern art spaces in West Africa. It’s also West Africa’s biggest art Gallery, featuring over 7,000 diverse artworks, ranging from textiles and sculptures to paintings from various Nigerian artists.

If you want to visit the gallery, be prepared to be exposed to great contemporary works of paintings, sculptures and textiles. Housed in a five-storey tall building, Nike Art Gallery has branches in Abuja, Osun and Kogi. I believe though that the Lagos branch is more interesting, with its four floors of art Works.

Getting into the gallery, I was so staggered by astonishing sculptures, beads and textiles. Here buying paintings and tradition is kept alive and culture is preserved.

These art works give me life. I won’t rest till I can buy one of the products without being nervous. One could spend days up here hunting fabulous art collection. Art is not what you see but what you make others see. It is a way for me to live out loud. Come with me to explore.

The future belongs to the curious children who are not afraid to try it, explore it, speak at it, question it, and turn it inside out.

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