And what have we learned? – a look back in two instalments
Obviously, we have not spent sufficient time in any country to have a balanced opinion. Our seven weeks – that is what it has been, in the end – have generated lots of observations, unmentioned so far, but are worthwhile part of the experience, nevertheless. In random order:
- Everything is always complicated in Africa. You will never receive a straight answer, even on the most simple and direct questions.
- The state of museums is concerning, to say the least. The amount of museums ‘temporary closed’ is staggering. Should this put the whole debate about return of African art works, stolen or not, in a different light? No, of course not, but it is good to be aware of the fact that the concept of museums and their role in society is something altogether different, here.
There are aficionados in our group, but in reality the food in Africa is mostly disgusting – well, not my favourite fare, to say it politely. Lots of fufu, or foufou, which is a dense, starchlike paste predominantly made from cassava, and generally pretty tasteless. To counter this, it is served with a very spicy sauce with either fish or chicken. Another local favourite is okra stew: now, okra can be very nice if kept in one piece, but Africans cook it so it breaks early, which makes the stew extraordinarily slimy – even if it tastes OK, it quickly becomes revolting just because of the texture. An early exception was bouillie, breakfast in Chad of rice, peanut butter and sugar. And there is of course lots of fruit and vegetables available, like the largest avocados ever, and a variety of bananas, pineapples, and other tropicals. And once we had reached the coast, there was occasionally seafood, excellent seafood!
- Wine, if obtainable at all, is expensive, and generally poor quality. Local beer is better, of variable quality, and widely available, but not always cold, of course, refrigeration being a luxury. Not surprisingly, I did lose quite a bit of weight during the trip.
African fashion is great, lots of African print cloths widely worn by men and women, very colourful. The flood of second hand cheapies, although still present, seems to be retreating. But why do cloths need to be presented on mannequins that are white?
These do not require an interpretation, of course. But there is more to West Africa then just a couple of observations, there is also the bigger picture. And that does need some musing over, let’s say. I’ll muse a bit, the next few days, and then write it down.
Next: that last musings