A Travellerspoint blog

The Art of Sand and the Legacy of Civilizations

Dakar, Senegal

View Around the World! - Part 3 on Where2FromHere's travel map.

Today we visited Dakar, a fascinating city that offers a unique blend of African culture, colonial history, and modern urban life.


Located on the westernmost point of Africa, Dakar boasts stunning coastal views, and a somber reminder of the past slave-trading center. Ninety percent of the country is Muslim and the remaining 10 percent are Christian. We timed our departure from the ship perfectly. Just as we arrived on the pier, the city official was presenting the plaque of the port and a sand painting of our ship to the captain.


Sand painting is a fascinating and unique art form that has been practiced in Senegal, West Africa, for generations. This traditional art involves carefully arranging colored sands, powdered pigments, and other materials on a flat surface to create intricate designs and patterns. We were captivated by the intricacy of a sand art piece offered to the captain that depicted the Serenade of the Seas, showcasing the creativity, skill, and deep cultural roots of Senegalese artists who continue to preserve and celebrate this distinctive aspect of their heritage. I couldn't resist upon our return to the ship from purchasing a few small sand paintinga as a momento from one of the numerous vendors who lined the length of the pier with their wares.


Rather than joining the tours to Goree Island with its slave museum or the city tour of a renowned mosque, we decided to take the shuttle into the city and embark on a walking adventure to the Museum of Black Civilization, which opened its doors in 2018. Navigating through the bustling streets of Dakar for twenty minutes to reach the museum was an experience in itself. As the only white people amidst a sea of locals, I felt a slight sense of intimidation, further heightened by the challenge of crossing streets teeming with taxis, trucks, and fellow pedestrians. However, we persevered and successfully reached our destination. [I like to believe that Jeff in his cowboy hat forewarns some not to "mess" with us!]


After negotiating to pay the entrance fee in US dollars, we were granted access to the museum, recognized by Time Magazine as one of the "World's 100 Greatest Places of 2019". The exhibits were varied, educational and interesting as you can see here:

  • Cradle of Mankind: When we stepped inside the museum we were greeted by a towering, 22-ton, 60 foot rusting tree called "The Saga of the Baobab". This display looks back to human origins in Africa. It features the paths of migration, ancient skulls and bones of some of the earliest human relations, from Ethiopia and elsewhere, as well as tools and ceramics of early craftsmanship, paying homage to the origins of humankind. With my interest in genealogy, this exhibit was truly fascinating.


  • Metalurgy: The museum was conceived with the goal of highlighting "Africa's contribution to the world's cultural and scientific patrimony. It is particularly important to remember that "ironworking was discovered in Africa 2500 years before Christ.


  • Oil Paintings: During our visit, we came across a temporary exhibit featuring incredibly intricate and well-executed oil paintings of African leaders. One particularly striking piece depicted the leader of Ghana, resplendent in a brightly colored costume reminiscent of the traditional attire we observed when meeting with a local community leader during our time in Ghana. Another remarkable painting displayed the leader of Madagascar astride his horse, a work that Jeff was, of course, drawn to. Each piece in the collection was an amazing work of art, with meticulous attention to detail that left us in awe.


  • African Civilizations: "Continuous Creation of Humanity” delves into the history of masks. By tracing their history and use in rituals, ceremonies, and performances, valuable insights could be gained into the ways of African societies. The masks and sculptures exhibited how they continuously shaped and reshaped their understanding of what it means to be human in relation to the cosmos and the unseen world.


  • Contemporary works: A wide variety of works were displayed, including some paintings, others made with fabrics and a few that were quite bazaar. Nevertheless, they got our attention.



Our visit to this museum in Dakar, dedicated to celebrating the richness and diversity of African civilizations, was a truly enlightening experience. The exhibits, showcasing art, history, and culture from across the vast continent, provided us with a deeper understanding and appreciation of Africa's remarkable heritage, making our stop in the city well worthwhile.

However, as we explored these countries of Western Africa, we couldn't help but notice the stark contrast between the region's abundant natural resources and the widespread poverty and challenging living conditions faced by many of its inhabitants. The term "third world" took on a more profound meaning as we witnessed firsthand the struggles and hardships endured by the people in this part of the world.

Posted by Where2FromHere 08:45 Archived in Senegal

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