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Post-colonial matters

Dakar (Senegal) Gueule Tapée, Marché aux poissons (map)

Saturday, 9 January 2016

The eyes of the fish vendor sparkle angrily: “I saw exactly what he did”, he screams into the circlet of vendors. He stretches out his arm, points with his finger towards me, shouting «Je l'ai bien vu, celui-ci!», in an appeal for the support of his fellow vendors. Fortunately, his colleagues are either drowsy or busy with other things – one of them briefly opens his eyes and closes them immediately afterwards, another one has his hands in an octopus. They don’t seem to be concerned. The uproar against me doesn’t take place. Nevertheless I make off. «Il n'a pas le droit! Il n'a pas le droit!», the sound of the man’s irate words follows me. What have I done? I’ve just taken a picture of a basket full of freshly caught fish glinting in the sun in front of the stall of the ranting man. They were not all special species, but small thiof – Brazilian groupers, probably the country’s most popular food fish. Had I taken a picture of the vendor I would have understood his anger – not everyone likes to be photographed by a tourist who finds picturesque what in fact is a bitter everyday affair. But when all I do is photograph his product, it should not annoy him, right?

Shortly afterwards, my cab driver, who is named Saliou, explains to me why people in Senegal get annoyed when one points one’s camera at their goods, houses, animals, show windows or at them. The «carte postale» is the reason. In the imagination of my ranting fish-seller, I produce, once back in the rich world, a postcard of the grouper and make a profit out of it – at his expense. To his mind every click of a picture is an exploitation of the black man by the white man. Thus, with each picture there is a repetition of what the continent has experienced over centuries and continues to do so. The idea is, of course, based on a great misunderstanding. But is this the whole truth?

See also

  • A recipe related to this this Episoda: Thiéboudienne (Rice in spicy tomato sauce, with fish and vegetables)
  • Episoda – a broadcast for Santa Lemusa (Introduction)
  • Biography of Peter Polter

First Publication: 24-1-2016