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Fieldwork in Senegal: Portraits of the market

Hijabs in every colour (Anna Wood, 2016)Friday best (Anna Wood, 2016)Stealing spice from the fataya chef (Anna Wood, 2016)I took these photos at the HLM fabric market in Dakar, Senegal. It’s huge, and felt like a maze at first, but by the end of my two weeks I was beginning to learn about trade and friendship networks operating within it. My PhD work is on a cash transfer in Senegal, however I hope to use this fieldwork to explore economic lives from a different perspective for my MRes dissertation.

My main interlocutors described the corridor they worked on as a ‘second home’. The girl pictured behind the counter in the shop worked for her mother, whilst the girl in the pink dress pictured with the baguette was employed by another patron and manned a machine – a sort of industrial iron clamp - used to fix ‘pearls’ (diamonté) to material. I learnt a new French verb, ‘confectionner’ (to decorate in this way), and saw how clients negotiated to fit ever more ‘garniture’ onto hijabs, wedding outfits and clothes for the coming weekend in the city. Asking about the penchant for sparkle, she replied, “Parce que, la nuit, quand tu vois quel qu'un à 100m, là, tu sens autre chose” (Because, at night, when you see someone 100m away, there, you feel something else).

From top right:

Hijabs in every colour. This marchand ambulant (street vendor) was friends with the girls inside the market and would come by throughout the day to hang out with them. Outside, there are many others selling the same thing in the same way.

Friday best. The first day I met the girls was just after the Friday afternoon prayer. During this time all of the men leave their shops and stalls to pray outside, whilst the lights are turned off and work stops inside.

Stealing spice from the fataya chef. I took this on the last day of my fieldwork, also a Friday. I went for breakfast with the girls – egg and gruyere baguettes and sweet carte noir coffee – and began to feel the daily rhythm of the market.