Regular readers of this blog will know how much I love going to markets. So I was delighted when our stay at The Little Boabab in Abéné included a village walk. It would give us a chance to explore the local craft and food markets, and to visit the community’s amazing sacred tree.
We set out early in the morning with our guide, Saikou. Saikou is from The Gambia, but he has lived and worked in the Casamance (southern) region of Senegal for about five years. His English is great (The Gambia is English-speaking) and he knows Abéné well.
Our first stop was the craft market. Because we arrived quite early in the morning only a few shops were open, but it was great to see the range of carvings, including plenty of masks. I’m not all that keen on masks. I love seeing them used in dance performances and other ceremonies, but I don’t need to see them hanging on my walls. Not sure where that attitude has come from.
The actual food market was next. It was a special treat to visit with Saikou because he let us know that photos would be okay. This was a welcome change. The further north we have travelled in West Africa, the less likely people have been to be pleased to have their photos taken. You can’t imagine how many photos have been captured in my mind’s eye, but not on camera. Darn.
The final stop was at Abéné’s Bantam Wora, or sacred tree. It’s actually six huge kapok or cotton (fromager) trees that have fused together.
People in the Casamance believe fromagers are sacred. They are thought to be possessed by a genie that can bring good fortune if offered kola nuts, biscuits, milk, bread or other delicacies. For example, women with fertility problems or young men wishing to win an upcoming football match will go and make an offering.
Before arriving, we were told that we would have to make a financial offering to the women who spend their days around the tree. We dithered about that at first. Senegal has huge paper money notes, and none of us really knew how to contribute. Luckily Adam, one of our drivers, was with us and offered a blanket donation.
The tree is ginormous. It could easily be six, eight or 10 trees fused together. A youth group (maybe university students) was there when we arrived. A group shot of them shows just how large the base of the tree is.