I got the goods at HLM


I finally went to the city’s biggest fabric market last week. Dutch wax fabric, or bazin, is my inanimate spirit animal (an oxymoron, I know), and HLM is the best place in Dakar to buy it. It’s vast and magnificent, and I put off going until I felt mentally prepared to handle that vastness and magnificence without blowing my entire sabbatical’s budget on tissu alone.

I am happy to report that I came back with a mere 8 yards of fabric in 2 different prints. I showed quite a bit of restraint but only because I was so overwhelmed by all the colors and patterns and textures that I tuned out in order to prevent myself from internally combusting.

Here’s my haul:


Not sure yet what I’ll use them for, which is why I bought 4 yards of each. That’s enough for a full dress or a set of two big pillowcases. (It is very, very cheap to have clothing and linens made to order here, and judging from the perfectly curve-hugging dresses the women wear, the tailors seem to be very, very good.)

I also made an unexpected non-fabric purchase after becoming enthralled with all the sparkly shoes on offer. It started innocently enough. I went into a store to document the awe-inspiring amount of bling filling the shelves.



Everything was over the top bedazzled in the way that Senegalese women seem to love.

To wit:


I was feeling like an anthropologist cooly detached from my subject matter, until I studied some of the shoes individually and my bemusement gave way to non-ironic admiration, and then to obsession. I had to have a pair. That pair turned out to be these:


They seemed like something Betty Grable would have worn while lounging on a velvet divan in her dressing room on the set of films from the golden age of Hollywood.

Since bringing them home, however, I have realized that they are actually more like my four year-old niece’s princess shoes.


The purchase appears to have set off some strange shift in me, because minutes later I became enamored of these:


If they had fit better, I would have bought them, too. I asked the friend I was with, “Have I been in Senegal too long or are these legitimately the coolest shoes you’ve ever seen?” Her look gave me my answer.

Note to self: no more shoe purchases in Senegal.

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