Due to illness and exhaustion I only made it to the first and last nights of the festival. The last night was incredible with a young group of protoges of Mamady Keita performing djembe followed by Gambian kora player Tata Ding Ding who has sadly recently lost a leg to diabetes – his performance was incredibly emotional.
Various guests and visitors came and went. All were lovely as usual and they are now friends.
I ran several trips to the mangroves, Kafountine’s permaculture centre (Art Oasis) and local villages.
I’m developing one tour (the milk round) to visit key sites from the book.
New Years Eve was great and everyone had a good time. And so did I aside from the fact that I was split from the group and only found everyone just before midnight – about two or three thousand people descend on Abene from all over Senegal and Gambia for its famous new years eve party, so it gets a bit tricky to find anyone. Whilst searching and walking fast in the dark, I hit a wooden dug out canoe and landed badly on a combination of my hip and head because I am an accidental African.
I was a bit disappointed that due to jealousy (this is Africa) the lady who normally organises what I’ve previously described as the best party in Africa and definitely my best ever New Years eves, didn’t. The village and other local places had organised their own parties – some fine, some not, but it wasn’t the same and when checking the time, it was 00:05 – new year came and went without any mention. As I say, everyone had a great time and it was still fantastic, but not quite the same. Ch-ch-ch-changes…
It ain’t easy
Once again, Bert will paint the cover art for my next book – working title, Chasing Hornbills. The idea is to use a self portrait (I’ve been taking self-portraits for years and refuse to abbreviate this phrase) which is a great image with great background (this one) but not the most flattering portrait. So Bert wanted to take some head shots of me in the sea.
As we ran out of time, he made me sit in a hole on his land in a pair of swim shorts and then got his wife to pour cups of water on my head – all on a fairly dull day that was actually rather chilly, by Senegalese standards. Bert had great fun. Me less so, but I’m confident we’ll get a great cover out of it.
Bert’s bar was a tranquil spot surrounded by cashew trees, but tragically his neighbour chopped them all down last week.
The neighbour is undergoing a massive construction project to build a huge concrete wall around the tree free terrain – the amount of cement blocks laying there could build a couple of houses I reckon. It seems half of Abene is building concrete walls which are a far cry from the natural palm fences that predominated when I first arrived. Of course, a level of development is desired and needed by the local population but I hope it’s not at the expense of losing the magic and beauty of the place.
We organised a Koumpo performance for a group of 40 Danish guests. The dancers seemed nervous at first, performing in front of so many toubabs but gradually the performance intensified. The first time I saw a koumpo, the dancing lasted three days (and not a chilled drink in sight). That’s how it is in the Casamance – performances are not tailored to tourists, including at the festival, but if you want an authentic African experience, you’re in the right place. Sadly many of the guests had left by the time four different masked creatures were whirling, dusting my masks as they swirled through the verandah and dancing up a storm well into the night. Another magical Baobab moment…
Once again, we took our guests on New Years day to a mangrove beach – this is starting to become a yearly tradition.
It’s one of the most beautiful tranquil local spots that I know and we spent hours swimming, wandering in the local bush and lazing around drinking cold beers and eating grilled fish.