The sacrifice of food to Mame Coumba Bang has held my interest, appealing to my fascination with turning every day items into tools for ritual and transformation. I’m certain I want to use these sacrificial food stuffs in my own work, and I am going to do it first through combining this notion with the other decisive element in the lives of the senegalese, the making of extravagant clothes.
Women here in Saint Louis adorn their bodies dazzling dresses, figure hugging to the nth degree, tailored to follow the contours of their body exactly. Garnished with faux jewels and sequins, large proportions of money is spent on having new clothes made. Clothes are the statement of success here.
And while small fortunes are spent on having new clothes made for social events, many women dress in fine garments for everyday jobs I’d be more comfortable in slacks and a tshirt. The waitresses and cleaners are dressed exquisitely for work. Amie, WAAWs maid, scrubs and sweeps in beautiful hammered bazin, a flash of red cord accents the turquoise shell of her dress.
These richly coloured wraps of cloth have inspired me to create my own signature fabrics, and I want to create dyes from the foods found here in Saint Louis.
So it’s off to the market.
I cross the bridge towards Guet Ndar, the fisherman’s village I recently wrote about, but instead of turning left into their home streets, I make a right into the labyrinth of their market.
A disorientating maze of high concrete walls, thin paths littered with the debris from the multitude of tailors clustered jungle of shops. Skinny cats slink around hoping to steal scraps from the fish mongers. Disfigured and emaciated, a new mother cat is nestled under a sandal stall attempting to suckle her kittens, one is already has a horrid gouge when his left eye should be.
A few twists and turns, and I find a stall that will sell me a pure cotton, a fabric that passes the burn test. I’d be warned about sellers passing off nylon mixes as cotton, so I’m armed with a lighter to test the cloth before I purchase it. A couple of previous shops couldn’t give me what I needed, but this third shop passes the test, and price agreed I pop the newspaper wrapped package in my bag.
Heading deeper in to the labyrinth of highly stacked stalls, I’m looking for out a herb shop to find the products for dye making. A find a fantastic little place within a couple of minutes, a simple pop up table stacked with furs, skins, bones, and other magical paraphernalia. Perfumes and herbs are wrapped in tight bundles and tumble from sacks. I selected a few to play with, dried hibiscus, usually sold for the making of senegalese bissap juice, bay leaves and turmeric.
Back at WAAW I boil these herbs in water on the little gas stove, reduce them, until I’m left with richly coloured liquids. Pleating and binding the fabric with cotton twine, my first dye tests are ready to try.