Everyday Live In Africa: Republic of Mali & the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire

This past winter I received hundreds of photos and detailed emails from Bob White (no relation) as he and his wife Anne explored remote villages in Africa for three months. The emails were fascinating as Bob shared with family and friends the trials and tribulations of travelling the back roads to get to “off the beaten path” places where they observe and capture the everyday life of Africans.

When they got back I asked if they would be interested in sharing some of their photos and experiences with Everyday Tourist blog readers as I know many of us have never been to Africa and if we have it probably wasn’t to the villages that they travelled to.

I am pleased they have agreed to share their experiences and insights with the Everyday Tourist community.

Travels with Anne & Bob

The border between Guinea and the Ivory Coast was closed during the Ebola crisis in 2014 and remained closed when we made our trip in 2016. We were forced to make a large detour into Mali before we could enter Guinea and continue our planned trip.

We stayed in the Ivory Coast resort town of Grand Bassam, where only a few months earlier three armed gunmen linked to al-Qaeda killed 19 tourists on the beach of this quiet town. We were more troubled and afraid of spending two days in this resort than our having to make a large diversion into Mali. 

 Fortunately, we had no problems during our time in the two countries, either from terrorists or Ebola.  We were welcomed and treated with friendship as was the norm during all our travels in West Africa.

Bob White

We hiked through the hills above the town of Siby, Mali to the Kamarjan Arch, a natural formation in the red sandstone cliffs. The arch and caves in the surrounding area have been used for animist and fetish religious rites for centuries.

We hiked through the hills above the town of Siby, Mali to the Kamarjan Arch, a natural formation in the red sandstone cliffs. The arch and caves in the surrounding area have been used for animist and fetish religious rites for centuries.

Women carrying their babies in slings on their backs is traditional throughout much of Africa. Women commonly clean, cook, shop and work at jobs while carrying their babies. The photo was taken in a roadside market south of Bamako, Mali.

Women carrying their babies in slings on their backs is traditional throughout much of Africa. Women commonly clean, cook, shop and work at jobs while carrying their babies. The photo was taken in a roadside market south of Bamako, Mali.

We took an early morning walk in the blocks around our hotel in the small city of Sikasso, Mali. A woman was doing a bustling business cooking up a sweet dough mix in a dimpled pan over a wood fire, a steady stream of locals bought the treats as quickly as she could cook them. We purchased a few and found they had a texture similar to a cake-style doughnut, and that they were delicious!

We took an early morning walk in the blocks around our hotel in the small city of Sikasso, Mali. A woman was doing a bustling business cooking up a sweet dough mix in a dimpled pan over a wood fire, a steady stream of locals bought the treats as quickly as she could cook them. We purchased a few and found they had a texture similar to a cake-style doughnut, and that they were delicious!

Our Lady of Peace Basilica, Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire   This huge church was built during the presidency of Felix Houphouët-Boigny, the first president of the Ivory Coast after independence from France in 1960. It can seat over 18,000 people, but normally draws only a couple of hundred for religious services in this mainly Muslim country. Houphouët-Boigny hoped that the basilica would become a pilgrimage site for African Catholics.

Our Lady of Peace Basilica, Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire

This huge church was built during the presidency of Felix Houphouët-Boigny, the first president of the Ivory Coast after independence from France in 1960. It can seat over 18,000 people, but normally draws only a couple of hundred for religious services in this mainly Muslim country. Houphouët-Boigny hoped that the basilica would become a pilgrimage site for African Catholics.

Anne Tapler White

Afternoon in the Mosque, Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire   We entered the Mosque which was quite large and spacious, cool and airy in the afternoon heat. The two girls were in a very intense conversion and did not notice my presence. What lead me to take the photo was how small they looked in such a large building.

Afternoon in the Mosque, Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire

We entered the Mosque which was quite large and spacious, cool and airy in the afternoon heat. The two girls were in a very intense conversion and did not notice my presence. What lead me to take the photo was how small they looked in such a large building.

Leading the Blind, Bouake, Cote d’Ivoire   We were sitting having tea along the main street of the town. The young girl was so attentive to the older woman, carefully guiding her along. What touched me was the young helping the old

Leading the Blind, Bouake, Cote d’Ivoire

We were sitting having tea along the main street of the town. The young girl was so attentive to the older woman, carefully guiding her along. What touched me was the young helping the old

Quarry Workers, near Korhogo, Cote d’Ivoire   We saw this work carried out both in quarries and along the roadside. It is a monumental task, breaking large boulders into gravel-sized rocks using only hand tools. The job takes many hours in the extreme heat, often entire families, including children, can be seen hammering at the rocks.

Quarry Workers, near Korhogo, Cote d’Ivoire

We saw this work carried out both in quarries and along the roadside. It is a monumental task, breaking large boulders into gravel-sized rocks using only hand tools. The job takes many hours in the extreme heat, often entire families, including children, can be seen hammering at the rocks.

Sacred Boulder, near Korhogo, Cote d’Ivoire   A short walk in sweltering heat and sun took us to this fetish site. Despite being mainly Muslim, many people rely on their animist traditions to get answers to personal problems. Fetish priests conduct rituals and animal sacrifices of chickens, sheep, and goats at this large boulder. A patch of chicken feathers stuck to the rock with blood is clearly visible. Shortly before we arrived, the lamb had been sacrificed to divine the solution to a problem. The lamb was carved into pieces for cooking and eating by the family that night.

Sacred Boulder, near Korhogo, Cote d’Ivoire

A short walk in sweltering heat and sun took us to this fetish site. Despite being mainly Muslim, many people rely on their animist traditions to get answers to personal problems. Fetish priests conduct rituals and animal sacrifices of chickens, sheep, and goats at this large boulder. A patch of chicken feathers stuck to the rock with blood is clearly visible. Shortly before we arrived, the lamb had been sacrificed to divine the solution to a problem. The lamb was carved into pieces for cooking and eating by the family that night.

Everyday Life In Africa: Republic of Sierra Leone

We had a lot of surprises while traveling the countries on the west coast of Africa, and the vast majority were good surprises. Sierra Leone was a very nice surprise.

What I knew of Sierra Leone was mainly what I remembered from news reports of their civil war that was fought between three separate groups from 1991 to 2002.

The term ‘child soldier’ was coined as a result of the forced conscription of children as young as 8 years old into the military forces. The use of children in fighting was mainly by the RUF rebel group, but other groups were also guilty of using children.

Daniel’s Courtyard Neighbor, Makeni, Sierra Leone

Daniel’s Courtyard Neighbor, Makeni, Sierra Leone

Gold & Diamonds?

Sierra Leone has rebounded considerably since the end of the civil war, partly due to the resources of gold and diamonds. Unfortunate, the revenues from these two valuable resources leads to corruption where most of the profits generated from sales end up being grabbed by the ruling elite and their close business partners. 

Screen Shot 2019-07-02 at 9.30.38 PM.png

China has also played a major role in the economic rebound. The Chinese have built a good highway system, shipping ports, railroads and developed a huge iron ore mine. The normal way China finances these developments is to loan the money to the government and then take mineral resources as payment on the loans.

As we drove through the country, we saw numerous agricultural developments with Chinese names; probably also financed with the crops being used for payment.

The Ebola epidemic that ravaged parts of Africa from 2014 to 2016 infected over 28,000 people and resulted in 11,325 deaths in Sierra Leone alone. While riding in a taxi in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, the driver commented on a garbage dump that we were passing and called it ‘Ebola Central.’ Fortunately, the epidemic had been declared over before our trip.

In general, we were warmly welcomed and treated with great hospitality during our time in Sierra Leone. We were never treated badly or had any large amount of overt hostility directed at us in any of the countries we traveled through in Africa. In some cases, we were the subject of curiosity as most of these countries do not have any widespread tourism.

Anne Tapler White: Red Earth in Black & White

My “Red Earth in Black and White” project documents the everyday lives of the people of West Africa from Dakar, Senegal and carrying me down the west coast of Africa to Cape Town, South Africa. I have learned from my travels that we are all bound by common threads, joined together across distant lands. The photographs tell a story, becoming a frozen narrative capturing a fleeting moment. 

“My name is Daniel Conteh” is one such story. It begins in Makeni, Sierra Leone, late afternoon monsoon rains forced me to take shelter on a porch, where a family had set up a table selling soft drinks, beer and candy.

After purchasing something to drink I settled down on a bench for the rains to subside. But the rains were relentless and soon a boy named Daniel asked me to come off the porch into his home. The living area was crowded with people and I was introduced to Daniel’s mother, Grandmother, Aunt and siblings. A hall joined to an outer courtyard where neighbors sheltered from the rain. I was given permission to photograph the family and their neighbors. Daniel’s Grandmother told of her hip operation and lifted her dress to show the scar.

That chance encounter has left an indelible impression with me, especially that little boy who invited me into his home and who did not want his photo taken. But on the wall above his mother you will see that he had previously written “My name is Daniel Conteh” now for all the world to see.

Daniel’s Mother, Makeni, Sierra Leone

Daniel’s Mother, Makeni, Sierra Leone

Daniel’s Grandmother, Makeni, Sierra Leone

Daniel’s Grandmother, Makeni, Sierra Leone

Neighbors Sheltering from the Rain, Makeni, Sierra Leone

Neighbors Sheltering from the Rain, Makeni, Sierra Leone

Daniel’s Family, Makeni, Sierra Leone

Daniel’s Family, Makeni, Sierra Leone

Bob White’s Photos From Sierra Leone

We stopped along the road one day for a break on the edge of a village just as the local school was finishing for the day. We were quickly surrounded by about 100 curious students. They crowded around and some of our group who spoke French were able to converse and answer their questions. Nearly all the girls had intricately braided hair, and they were more than willing to pose for our pictures.

We stopped along the road one day for a break on the edge of a village just as the local school was finishing for the day. We were quickly surrounded by about 100 curious students. They crowded around and some of our group who spoke French were able to converse and answer their questions. Nearly all the girls had intricately braided hair, and they were more than willing to pose for our pictures.

Due to a mechanical breakdown on our truck, we spent nearly an entire day in the tiny village of Kambama. The people seem very accepting of us wandering around the village and taking pictures of their houses, school, and their activities. Most of the village is Christian and their children attend the small village school. These two boys were part of the Muslim minority and they receive instruction from an Imam who visits the village 1 or 2 days each week. They were proud to display their homework neatly written in Arabic.

Due to a mechanical breakdown on our truck, we spent nearly an entire day in the tiny village of Kambama. The people seem very accepting of us wandering around the village and taking pictures of their houses, school, and their activities. Most of the village is Christian and their children attend the small village school. These two boys were part of the Muslim minority and they receive instruction from an Imam who visits the village 1 or 2 days each week. They were proud to display their homework neatly written in Arabic.

This small church was built by freed slaves who returned to Sierra Leone. We were told the returned slaves were not well received by the local population and it took many years for them to successfully reintegrate into the local society.

This small church was built by freed slaves who returned to Sierra Leone. We were told the returned slaves were not well received by the local population and it took many years for them to successfully reintegrate into the local society.

One afternoon we were surprised to see a funeral party and pallbearers trooping down the beach to a small village that had no road access. At least two streams had to be forded by the group, that prevented many of the guests from getting to the village to attend the burial.

One afternoon we were surprised to see a funeral party and pallbearers trooping down the beach to a small village that had no road access. At least two streams had to be forded by the group, that prevented many of the guests from getting to the village to attend the burial.

Bure beach at sunset. Bure beach is a common destination for weekends and holidays for people living in nearby Freetown. There are a number of small hotels and scattered individual cottages along this stretch of fine sandy beach. We stayed at the pompously name Bure Beach Resort, it was not in the resort category by any standards. The corrugated iron roof over the lobby and dining area leaked so badly it was nearly as wet inside as in the afternoon downpour outside. The rooms were small and barren and the curtains on the windows had rotted to shreds. On the plus side, the plumbing mainly worked, the staff was amazingly accommodating and the meals were surprisingly good.

Bure beach at sunset. Bure beach is a common destination for weekends and holidays for people living in nearby Freetown. There are a number of small hotels and scattered individual cottages along this stretch of fine sandy beach. We stayed at the pompously name Bure Beach Resort, it was not in the resort category by any standards. The corrugated iron roof over the lobby and dining area leaked so badly it was nearly as wet inside as in the afternoon downpour outside. The rooms were small and barren and the curtains on the windows had rotted to shreds. On the plus side, the plumbing mainly worked, the staff was amazingly accommodating and the meals were surprisingly good.

If you like this blog, you will like these links:

AnneTaplerWhite Photography

Everyday Live in Africa: Senegal

Everyday Life in Africa : Senegal

This past winter I received hundreds of photos and detailed emails from Bob White (no relation) as he and his wife Anne explored remote villages in Africa for three months. The emails were fascinating as Bob shared with family and friends the trials and tribulations of travelling the back roads to get to “off the beaten path” places where they observe and capture the everyday life of Africans.

When they got back I asked if they would be interested in sharing some of their photos and experiences with Everyday Tourist blog readers as I know many of us have never been to Africa and if we have it probably wasn’t to the villages that they travelled to.

I am pleased they have agreed to share their experiences and insights with the Everyday Tourist community.

Arithmetic on the Wall, St Louis, 2016   This image caught my eye because the children were concentrating on doing their lesson so intently my presence went undetected. I surmised that the lack of paper and pencils made the building the next best thing to write on.

Arithmetic on the Wall, St Louis, 2016

This image caught my eye because the children were concentrating on doing their lesson so intently my presence went undetected. I surmised that the lack of paper and pencils made the building the next best thing to write on.

Anne Tapler White: Red Earth in Black & White Project

My Africa project, entitled “Red Earth in Black & White, began in 2013. I am interested in documenting the everyday life of the African people, and to some extent, portrays similarities to our own lives, all bound by common threads. The images tell a story that at times goes beyond the scope of written words, becoming a frozen narrative capturing a fleeting moment and perhaps in the eyes of the viewer creating a private story.

The Red Earth not only describes the iron-rich soil but is a symbol of its people and their visceral bond with the land that sustains them. It is in the vastness of the never-ending landscape with its small villages and in the streets of the more urban centers that you see their struggles, resilience, and their pride in being African.

Clean Sweep, Cape Skirring, 2016   It was the start of the tourist season and the women of the community all joined together to sweep the streets in preparation for the onslaught of tourists. True community spirit, with an abundance of brooms.

Clean Sweep, Cape Skirring, 2016

It was the start of the tourist season and the women of the community all joined together to sweep the streets in preparation for the onslaught of tourists. True community spirit, with an abundance of brooms.

Good Bye Look, Sippo Island, 2016   We spent several hours in a classroom that was taught by one teacher. The grades ran from Kindergarten to junior high. The children displayed the most amazing penmanship. The young girls gaze from the window was irresistible.

Good Bye Look, Sippo Island, 2016

We spent several hours in a classroom that was taught by one teacher. The grades ran from Kindergarten to junior high. The children displayed the most amazing penmanship. The young girls gaze from the window was irresistible.

Village Bakery, N’ Doul, 2016   The bakery was housed in a small industrial building, there were no counters and the bread was dispensed from boxes. The children who were working there ranged in age from maybe eight to twelve. Child labor is a continuing problem and one that I witnessed too often in my travels.

Village Bakery, N’ Doul, 2016

The bakery was housed in a small industrial building, there were no counters and the bread was dispensed from boxes. The children who were working there ranged in age from maybe eight to twelve. Child labor is a continuing problem and one that I witnessed too often in my travels.

Everyday Culture

“We got hooked on Africa partly because so few other tourists go there, we like to be off the beaten path, going to places and seeing things that haven’t been overdone and over-run. We are more interested in the people living their everyday lives and the culture of the countries” noted Bob White.

The rich musical history of Africa, especially from Ghana, Cote d’ Ivoire, Mali, and Senegal, is also fascinating. Virtually everywhere we traveled in West Africa we saw almost no other Caucasians and extremely few tourists, with the exception of South Africa.  

The sights we have seen are much lower key than the pyramids and other ancient sights in Egypt. The sights in West Africa may not have the awe factor of the popular tourist attractions, but we often find more personal connections to what we see.

Senegal is more Westernized than many other places in West Africa. Cape Skirring and a handful of other spots along the Atlantic coast regularly attract tourists from Europe, primarily from France due to Senegal being a former French colony. St. Louis in northern Senegal was of particular interest due to its history of being a regular stop on the original airmail route bringing mail from the US to Europe through South America and Africa.

As far as our photography shooting styles, Anne is much more deliberate in choosing her shots; I tend to take lots of pictures of everything I see and hope I get a scattering of good pictures. Anne has the eye to pick out the less obvious compositions and likes to include people in most of her photos.

Note: Bob always takes colour photos while Anne takes black and white.

When we visited Sippo Island, we had to provide a large bag of rice as an entrance fee to wander around the island and take photos. In the photo, the rice is being divided to share with all of the local families. It was nice to see that the rice didn’t go only to the village chief and his family.

When we visited Sippo Island, we had to provide a large bag of rice as an entrance fee to wander around the island and take photos. In the photo, the rice is being divided to share with all of the local families. It was nice to see that the rice didn’t go only to the village chief and his family.

We were in Senegal at the height of the harvest season for many fruits and melons. It was common to see piles of watermelons along the roads and stacked on sidewalks, like the ones in the photo. Many of these fruit stands seemed to be unattended, I assume that buyers would select a melon and then pay the grower directly.

We were in Senegal at the height of the harvest season for many fruits and melons. It was common to see piles of watermelons along the roads and stacked on sidewalks, like the ones in the photo. Many of these fruit stands seemed to be unattended, I assume that buyers would select a melon and then pay the grower directly.

A group of colorful fishing boats in the harbor at St. Louis, Senegal. St. Louis is a major port for Senegal and a large portion of the people earn their living from the sea. Much of the fishing is done at night and the boats return in the morning to sell their catch.

A group of colorful fishing boats in the harbor at St. Louis, Senegal. St. Louis is a major port for Senegal and a large portion of the people earn their living from the sea. Much of the fishing is done at night and the boats return in the morning to sell their catch.

The fishing beach, St. Louis, Senegal. Hundreds of dilapidated houses, little more than shacks, crowd the edge of the beach in St. Louis, often with fishing boats tucked between them well above the tide. The children mainly play on the beach as there is virtually no other open space in the fishing village. Adults seem to commonly use the beach as a sidewalk to visit friends and neighbors. We were tolerated, but not really welcome on this garbage-strewn beach. We had hoped to see the boats coming in and unloading their catch, but our timing was off.

The fishing beach, St. Louis, Senegal. Hundreds of dilapidated houses, little more than shacks, crowd the edge of the beach in St. Louis, often with fishing boats tucked between them well above the tide. The children mainly play on the beach as there is virtually no other open space in the fishing village. Adults seem to commonly use the beach as a sidewalk to visit friends and neighbors. We were tolerated, but not really welcome on this garbage-strewn beach. We had hoped to see the boats coming in and unloading their catch, but our timing was off.

Last Word

Africa became a project for me. It appealed to my preference for shooting in busy chaotic situations. The markets and streets display endless photographic possibilities. My interest is more social documentary in nature, presenting a more candid view of the people and their cultures in everyday life situations.  

I prefer the black and white image as opposed to color, because it draws out the essence of a moment, and simplifies the image. It is hard to explain why I take certain images. For me, it's very immediate when some or all of the photographic elements come together. 

For more photos checkout Anne’s website: Anne Tapler White

If you like this blog, you will like these links:

William Kentridge: Procession

Off The Beaten Path: Gleichen, Blackfoot Crossing, Medicine Hat

Mexico City: Full of fun surprises