They are young, creative and man­age their own busi­nesses. Fash­ion, pho­tog­ra­phy, art, mu­sic has made Dakar one of the most ex­plo­sive cities in Africa. And with the In­ter­net, they don´t have to leave Africa to show and sell their prod­ucts.

Nomad Africa Magazine - - Gallivant Senegal - Words: UR­BAN NILMANDER Pho­tos: CARIN TEG­NER

iThe taxi stops in the sand out­side a gray house. "This is it," the driver tells us. It´s not. "Not one per­son from Dakar would say; I don´t know. They rather take a chance, just to be help­ful". Ais­satou Sene laughs when we tell her how many times we were "helped" to find dif­fer­ent ad­dresses. Af­ter an ex­tra taxi ride we have fi­nally found her new store, Bélya, near the old air­port. She is one of many young de­sign­ers in Dakar who started her own busi­ness and be­came successful very fast. "I started as a model, when I was tinier, and was curious how to de­sign clothes. By show­ing some things I've done on the In­ter­net, ev­ery­thing took off quickly", says Ais­satou Sene. To­day she has spe­cialised in shoes and bags. When we meet, she has just sold part of the com­pany to an Amer­i­can in­vestor

In re­cent years, chaotic Dakar, with Cape Town, have be­come sym­bols of some­thing new. African de­sign­ers rooted in tra­di­tion but cre­at­ing some­thing new - on their own terms. A growing mid­dle class also cre­ates an African mar­ket. Young proud de­sign­ers stay and cre­ate in their own coun­tries.

and can now in­vest heav­ily world­wide. "I like to use the amaz­ing prints we have in Sene­gal. But in a new way. I felt that slim shoes could work for a larger au­di­ence," she says. From the out­set, she wanted ev­ery­thing pro­duced lo­cally. But it turned out dif­fi­cult, the lo­cal shoe­mak­ers could not de­liver. "If I were to grow, I had to go out­side Sene­gal. Here you could make 100 pairs of shoes in six months. I found a very pro­fes­sional man­u­fac­turer in Fes, Morocco, who can make 1000 pairs in a month", she says. All fab­rics and pro­duc­tion of bags take place in Dakar. The in­ter­est in stores in New York, Paris and other Euro­pean coun­tries means she is con­stantly on the road. When we meet she is on her way to In­done­sia. "The In­ter­net has changed the lives of many Africans and es­pe­cially if you are an entrepreneur and want to sell clothes, pho­tos, art or mu­sic. I see it as a rev­o­lu­tion", says Ais­satou Sene. In re­cent years, chaotic Dakar, with Cape Town, have be­come sym­bols of some­thing new. African de­sign­ers rooted in tra­di­tion but cre­at­ing some­thing new on their own terms. A growing mid­dle class also cre­ates an African mar­ket. Young proud de­sign­ers stay and cre­ate in their own coun­tries. As rap­per Di­dier Awadi says: "Cul­tural ac­tivists af­fect more than po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists." New taxi ride takes us to a new neigh­bour­hood and yet an­other wrong ad­dress. But there is al­ways some­body who walks with us the last bit. In a villa area in Ouakam, one of the most fa­mous faces of new African de­sign, Selly Rabe Kane, has her show­room, slash home, slash venue, slash work­place. She took the world by storm with her colour­ful sur­re­al­is­tic clothes. Fa­mous artists Bey­once and Ri­hanna loved it. In 2019, new prod­ucts she has cre­ated with fur­ni­ture gi­ant IKEA will be launched. She sees no dif­fer­ence be­tween fash­ion de­sign, art, film or other cul­tural ex­pres­sions. "To me, fash­ion be­came a way of ex­press­ing. But I'm in­ter­ested in all kinds of me­dia, right now I'm work­ing with vir­tual re­al­ity," says Selly Rabe Kane. Meet­ing her in her show­room is also very Dakar­ish. We have booked time for in­ter­view and pho­tog­ra­phy, but when we get there, the en­tire place fills with a CNN team. The team is mak­ing a fea­ture about world-fa­mous Dakar hip-hop group DaaraJ Fam­ily, aka Faada Fr eddy and Ndongo D. Peo­ple come and go and of course, you have talk to every­one. A clear pic­ture of how the creative rev­o­lu­tion evolved in Dakar. Most peo­ple know each other and help each other to in­di­vid­ual suc­cess. "Ab­so­lutely. We have all worked to­gether in art col­lec­tives, I joined one called Les Petites Pier­res, we helped each other to move on. To me, the most in­ter­est­ing is young peo­ple in Dakar now ex­press them­selves from their deep roots in Africa.They do not need to move to a West­ern coun­try to be ac­cepted as de­sign­ers and artists," says Selly Rabe Kane. She moved to Paris to be­come a lawyer. But she nei­ther liked France nor the pro­fes­sional choice. "France was heavy for me. Most peo­ple I met were so pre­dictable and I wanted to de­velop, so I had to come home again. Here in Dakar, ev­ery­thing hap­pens by ac­ci­dent and that's how I want to live," she says. New scary taxi ride home to young pho­tog­ra­pher Sidy Mo­hamed Kandji. Or ac­tu­ally, he works as an AD at an ad­ver­tis­ing agency and has pho­tog­ra­phy as a hobby. "My dream is to be able to live on pho­tog­ra­phy, but I also love my work. We'll see what hap­pens,” he says. Ev­ery­thing be­gan when he started tak­ing pic­tures of hip-hop artists. The artists loved his pic­tures and or­dered cov­ers for CDs and made him a sort of head pho­tog­ra­pher at con­certs. But Sidy wanted to de­velop and started with fash­ion photo and landed in doc­u­men­tary photo. Dur­ing vi­o­lent po­lit­i­cal un­rest in 2012, he was amid the masses. "I was pretty scared. I´m not a press pho­tog­ra­pher and ran among the pro­test­ers and it was some­times vi­o­lent," he says. The pic­tures later ended in a book and al­lowed him to con­tinue with the doc­u­men­tary photo. He trav­elled to Ethiopia and fol­lowed a re­li­gious group and for four years he was in­volved in a photo book pro­ject about a Sufi group in rasta hair called Baye Fall. "They live sim­ple lives and dif­fer a lot from other Mus­lim groups. It has been as ex­cit­ing to fol­low them as to hear every­one else's com­ments about them," he says. He has also taken many close-ups por­traits of friends and com­pletely un­known peo­ple in Dakar. "It can be dif­fi­cult to take pic­tures of or­di­nary peo­ple. Most peo­ple think any­one tak­ing pic­tures would sell them for big money abroad," says Sidy Mo­hamed Kandji. Next stop, we ne­go­ti­ate with taxi driv­ers who are not so ex­cited about driv­ing to the dis­trict of Hann Maristes. We meet young artist and world-cit­i­zen Papi, alias Ma­madou Wane. He grew up in Mali, Ethiopia, Rwanda

and New York. Dad is from Dakar and mother from Mau­ri­ta­nia. "We al­ways came to Sene­gal on va­ca­tion when I was young. But af­ter my art ed­u­ca­tion in the United States, I just landed in Dakar be­fore de­cid­ing where to have my base. Af­ter a few days and many cool meet­ings, I de­cided to stay here," he says. He saw some­thing big and creative was emerg­ing among young peo­ple in Dakar. "There is a big gen­er­a­tion gap here in Sene­gal. But there is def­i­nitely some­thing bub­bling right now. Young creative peo­ple ev­ery­where found­ing their mar­ket on so­cial me­dia, says Papi. Dur­ing the re­cent Dakar Bi­en­nale 2016 he did Wax-Off with rap­pers and Djs from dif­fer­ent parts of Africa. "I did a live paint­ing and there were pho­tog­ra­phers ev­ery­where doc­u­ment­ing what hap­pened. I'll do some­thing sim­i­lar this year," he says. In ad­di­tion, he has also be­gun de­sign­ing clothes. "I have al­ways seen my­self as an entrepreneur. I want to paint, but I also want to cre­ate clothes peo­ple like to wear. There is no con­tra­dic­tion to me," he says. Last stop on our designer trip through Dakar is with Mil­cos Badji. His whole fam­ily are po­lice and mil­i­tary, but he chose IT and be­came a com­puter pro­gram­mer. For fun, he de­signed a T-shirt with the text; Nio Far, "We're To­gether" in lo­cal lan­guage Wolof. "I put it on Face­book and got many or­ders. It gave me a kick to con­tinue with other ideas I had," he says. He cre­ated the brand Nio Far by Mil­cos and to­day he has great suc­cess with his shoes, all in spe­cial pat­terns from a small com­mu­nity in Mali. "I liked the qual­ity and pat­terns, but it has been a long jour­ney to get them to de­liver to me." It started with a bag and to­day he has sev­eral col­lec­tions of sneak­ers that have be­come pop­u­lar on­line. "To­day I have a good team and the best so far was the King of Morocco re­cently bought a whole col­lec­tion from me," says Mil­cos Badji. Next step is launch­ing shoes and bags in a spe­cial blue colour from the same area in Mali. To him, shar­ing and co­op­er­a­tion are the key to the creative ex­plo­sion in Dakar. "There are many do­ers here in Dakar, young peo­ple who make won­der­ful things in fash­ion, mu­sic, art and pho­tog­ra­phy. It is a tra­di­tional so­ci­ety where not much hap­pens so we say; we can­not wait for others to do some­thing for us," says Mil­cos Badji.

Above: Papi, alias Ma­madou Wane with his paint­ings and de­signed clothes. Far Left: One of Selly’s De­signs. Left: Ais­satous’ shoe de­signs. She spe­cial­izes in shoes and bags. Ais­satous sold part of her com­pany to an Amer­i­can in­vestor and can now in­vest heav­ily world­wide.

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