Southern Senegal

Hello! Back in Dakar after a really fun vacation in Cape Verde, but before I share anything from that trip I still have two other sets of pictures to post from the shoots I did in December.

First up, eastern Senegal, near Kolda. Since we couldn’t go through The Gambia to get there, we drove all the way around it, turning south at Tambacounda.

The village chief welcomed us with a bowl of lakh and lait caillé to share as a mid-morning snack.

And I kept munching on peanuts fresh from the ground. I got my first taste of raw peanuts on another Senegalese shoot many months ago, and it wasn’t until this shoot that I got my second taste.

Raw peanuts are surprisingly different from roasted ones. They’re chewier and earthier, and they’re much more recognizable as the legumes they are than as the nuts they are not.

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At one point I was filming a meeting with all the village women, when I noticed that in the background, the men were slaughtering a goat. I reframed, as much for the sake of the video’s eventual audience as for the sake of my stomach.

I could run, but I could not hide… Twenty minutes later, I was wandering around the village filming general scenes, when I happened upon a bunch of kids about to cut up the goat. I flashed back to when I was their age, and it was a daily struggle just to get me to make my bed in the morning.

I wandered off and forgot about it. When I was done filming for the day at about 3pm, I thought we’d head back to town. But it was lunchtime, and I was a guest of honor, so I was invited to eat with the men. The women came out with the big shared bowl for us, and it was then that I realized I was being served the goat whose dying bleats had rung in my ears earlier that morning.

I was loathe to refuse Senegalese teranga, so I forced myself to be the unconflicted meat-eater I am not, and I dug in with very fake gusto. But upon first bite I had to admit that this mafé was the best I’ve ever had. Not because of the fresh meat (even that phrase turns my stomach), but because of the fresh peanuts. The sauce was made with the nuts that had been pulled up from the ground that morning.

In this village, as in much of Senegal, the diet consists almost entirely of what they grow themselves.

Here’s a video of the women pounding rice from their fields.

A few days later, the driver for the Senegal shoot drove north from Kolda to the Gambian border, where we met the driver for the Gambia shoot. I hopped from one car to another almost at the exact point where Senegal becomes The Gambia, and the driver turned around and headed back to Banjul.

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PS I just changed the title of this post from “eastern Senegal” to “southern Senegal” after looking at the Google map above and realizing that Kolda is actually nowhere close to the eastern half of the country. I guess because we went as far east as Tambacounda to then make our way south and west to Kolda, I thought of it as in the East as well. But I was wrong.

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