Carole Diop, a young architect, art enthusiast and co-founder of the magazine Afrikadaa is a notable figure Dakar’s art and culture scene. Afrikadaa itself is an interactive magazine and platform that reflects on contemporary art, design and architecture from the African continent and its diaspora. Today Carole takes us on a visit around her artsy Dakar: great destinations and agendas so take notes!
How would you describe Senegal to someone going there for the first time?
I would say that Senegal is a “rich” country for its history, with two cities classified as UNESCO World Heritage sites (St. Louis and Gorée), its culture, its artistic and literary heritage (Senegal was home to Leopold Sédar Senghor, Ousmane Sembène and Ousmane Sow) and the diversity of its landscapes (islands, desert, cliffs, parks, etc).
How long have you lived in Dakar?
I lived in Senegal until I was 18 before pursuing further studies in France. I’ve been back for 3 years.
Senegal, the land of Téranga (welcome in Wolof), right?
Yes, hospitality is part of the values that the Senegalese hold dear: their sense of hospitality is legendary. Sharing, conviviality and generosity are the essence of Téranga but beware, there are still ill willed individuals lurking around looking to rip you off (pushy merchants, opportunistic taxi drivers, aggressive guides). The best way one can experience the true spirit of Téranga is by having the privilege of being taken in by a family here.
The best time to come to Senegal?
I’d say the best periods are from April to May, just before the summer and December/January as harmattan begins.
What gives Dakar its charm?
Its coastline, which is unfortunately increasingly endangered and not sufficiently developed.
The best way to get around town?
The best way to get around in the city center (plateau) is on foot. If you have a license I’d suggest renting a car, it’s much cheaper than using taxis especially during longer stays. It’ll make it easier for you to leave the capital discover other sights (Lac Rose, St. Louis or the Bandia reserve are only a few hours away). The truly adventurous can try out our minibuses (called cars rapides, a true attraction) and the bus.
Recommended locations for stays?
- Hotels: my top 3 are the Terrou-Bi (4-star hotel on the west cornice), Villa Racine (located at 37 Rue Jules Ferry, Dakar-Plateau), and the Djoloff (located at Fann Hock).
- Bed and breakfasts or home-stays: La Villa 126 in Ngor and Chez Hulo Guillabert in Mermoz about 15 minutes from downtown and the airport – you’ll feel right at home here (1 bedroom, room capacity of 2, bookings through Airbnb). Hulo also happens to be a local figure (writer, editor, activist).
- Outside the city: Au fil du fleuve in Saint-Louis. (picture and caption) guest house Au Fil du Fleuve, Saint Louis. © Antoine Tempe
Your top 3 dishes no one should leave without tasting?
You can’t leave without tasting “Tiep bou dien” our national pride of course, “Yassa” and “Mafé”.
Favourite spots for?
- A nice breakfast: Au café Layu (A perfect mix American coffeeshop and Senegalese specialties). Layu doesn’t just offer coffee, it also has accessories, clothes, a bookstore, anything you can think of. Layu almadies: King Fhad Palace road, next to Citydia / Layu ville: Assane Ndoye x Mouhamed V, downtown Dakar.
- Lunch: It depends on what you want to eat. One of the great things about Dakar is that it boasts a wide and rich variety of restaurants. There is something for everyone and for every budget. You can eat Japanese and Thai at Shogun, Lebanese at restaurant Farid, Cape Verdean and Senegalese specialties at Chez Loutcha, pizza from La Piazzola, and for seafood lovers there’s La Mer à Table.
- A nice snack: Ice-cream from Chez Regis Glacier. I also just discovered a spot near my place in Mermoz, a Brazilian tearoom that offers homemade sweets to die for called Simone Café.
- A nice dinner: Hands down La Fourchette or Le Coste for a culinary world tour and La Calebasse for lovers of African flavors.
Where to go for …
- a drink and good music? The Bayékou, Le Charly, La Cabane du Surfeur.
- to party? Le Charly, The Box, Le Little Buddha, depending on your tastes.
- relaxation and pampering? The O’Sens institute, Buddhattitude.
Important sight-seeing locations to discover?
Gorée, Lake Rose, the Bandia reserve.
Art is your nice, a word on Dakar, the city of art ?
There’s so much to say, cultural Dakar is always buzzing thanks to various artistic enterprises and local cultural figures. How can I talk about art in Dakar without bringing up the contemporary african art biennial, Dak’art, whose 12th edition opens in May 2016 and that has become a major event.
Places to discover this art?
I invite you to visit the Raw Material Company art center, the Arte gallery, the Village des Arts, the National gallery, Atelier Ceramique Almadies, the Kemboury gallery, Keur Thiossane and Atelier Fer et Verre. You can find these different spots’ addresses by consulting Partcours’s 4th edition catalogue, a cultural event created in 2011 under Raw Material Company and Céramiques Almadies’s initiative. Each year Partcours brings together all manners of Dakar’s art spaces and exhibitions to promote them and to discover artists from Senegal and beyond.
News about current cultural events?
To learn more about current cultural events in Dakar and the rest of the country, I invite you to visit the dynamic Aisha Ken Sy’s blog, www.wakhart.com, or check out Agendakar’s platform.
To escape Dakar and get off the beaten path?
If you have the spirit of adventure I suggest a road-trip across the country, to explore the region of Sine-Saloum (its islands, mangroves, forests and lagoons); Bassari country in eastern Senegal (You can visit the Niokolo Koba National Park and Dinfélélo waterfalls, registered under the UNESCO World Heritage), the Lompoul desert south of Saint-Louis and Karabane island in Casamance. You can choose the river route to explore the north of the country by crossing the Senegal river waters aboard the Bou El Mogdad from Saint-Louis.
What can we bring back from Dakar?
Artwork, clothes and accessories made in Dakar because we’re not exactly lacking when it comes to stylists and designers: Belya, Bul Doff, Sophie Zinga, Selly Raby Kane, Mis Wude and Johanna Bramble come to mind. You can also get your hands on ingredients to make delicious local fruit juice (Bissap, bouye, etc.)
Have we forgotten something?
Yes, once again for those interested in Dakar’s art scene, the Afrikadaa review (http://www.afrikadaa.com/), which I co-founded, organizes cultural a after-work event, Sn Art, in partnership with Agendakar which gathers cultural figures every last Thursday of the month. For more information visit Sn Art’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/snart.afterwork/).
See you in Dakar!
Translation from french by Sally Vusi. HERE french version
Credits: @Antoine Tempé