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

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