Traveling from Lagos to Bamako

Woke up Muslim time with a call from the reception. Morning prayer accompanied the quick shower and the sit-on-suitcase ritual. Thanks to Bisi Silva we all had chick and solid bags to put all the catalogs and magazines in after my Santral Museum paper bag not surprisingly broke under the weight of books in this rushy morning session. Leaving the hotel at 5.30 a.m., everyone a bit red-eyed from the party in Bisi`s home the pervious night. Wow, those Nigerians know how to party! All the guests were on their feet dancing until the ground was a pile of sweat. It is something about the heat and the smiling friendliness making even the stiffest Northerner shake their ass. We were very sorry to leave and having to say goodbye. Especially to our friends from Ghana John Owoo, Bernhard Akoi-Jackson, Ato Annan and Adwoa Amoah who had become one with the group these two days in Lagos. Bernhard, Ato and Adwoa are artists engaged in art institutions in Accra. FCA seems like a very interesting space for contemporary art with a dense exhibition program, educational program and publications. The exhibitions are a mix of traditional art shows and more archival and documentary exhibitions. In their publications, which have the form of newspapers they invite different people to write about the exhibition topics and related themes, they write themselves and they print already written texts by theorists and other professionals.

There were a great mix of guests in Bisi’s party: Artists, dancers, actors, academics, curators, journalists and a diplomat with an orange tie. Ayoola Sadave Director of Lagos International Jazz Festival and Lagos Night Jazz told us about his festivals not only including jazz music, but also exhibitions and performing arts. He is planning to visit the circuit of European jazz festivals this summer and was very familiar with Molde Jazz on the West Coast of Norway. It was also very nice to meet Toyin Akinosho again, originally a geologist who is the founder of CORA, after having the privilege of a longer discussion with him the previous day. The impact of Nigerian literature when it comes to create a space for reflection on identity, politics and history cannot be underlined enough. We were talking about the possibility of visual arts to also play such a role in the Nigerian society. Also the film industry in Nigeria is growing and starting to get a position as a reflective and critical medium. Even though Nollywood films first and furthermost are entertainment, you have filmmakers like Tunde Kelani who creates within the format of Nollywood films, but with highly relevant, political and enlightening content.

The traffic in Lagos is a chapter on its own. This is probably one of the city`s biggest challenges logistically and pollution wise. It is quite draining driving around when you most of the time are standing still, but we actually made most of our appointments on time. You just need to start driving early enough, and we had definitely started to drive early this morning. We were at the airport at 6 a.m., but we needed that time. Checking in could have been a full-time job, but there were a system in what first seemed as chaos. Bamako is not that far away from Lagos, but there is no direct flight so we embarked the ”local route” passing by Free Town in Sierra Leone, Banjul in Gambia and getting off in Dakar Senegal. The Nigerian flight company Arik Air just started flying three years ago and their plane seemed totally new and was very comfortable.

At the airport in Dakar some of us thought we were in deep trouble. Coming from Armenia, Brazil, Guatemala and Norway you need to have a transit visa in Senegal. We were stopped by a guard and taken aside. However luckily, what we thought meant waving goodbye to the Dutch, were really a ”royal treatment” escorted by a security guard through transit and check in and reached the gate long before the others. Dakar Airport was lazy and nice. We were hanging out in the bar eating baguettes and drinking coffee. After three hours of sleep it was nice with a slow and casual atmosphere. Still one hour to our flight, Fariba is keeping everyone`s energy level up by feeding us chocolate. Haco befriended the bartender who whispered him where the secret smoking spot was.

We arrived Bamako on time, no luggage astray and the temperature was 38 celsius! After a quick shower and dumping our luggage in the rooms we set off to Bla Bla Bar to meet Astrid de Vries from the Dutch Embassy. Bla Bla Bar function both as restaurant and bar and has a very nice yard with crafty wooden furniture. The food is delicious! My choice was a fish called Capitaine, which is served grilled. It was so soft and had a wonderful juicy taste. The night ended with Nazareth singing Armenian songs for us.

– Helga-Marie Nordby


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