A portrait of change in Dakar. At the Dak'Art Biennale, the ever evolving city itself is the most colorful canvas.

It's FOMO season in Senegal's capital. Even when you're at an exhibition opening, for this year's Dakar Biennale - oohing and aahing over the artwork and envying outfits as you people spot - there's a fear of missing out on an even better scene somewhere else.

What's happening - right now! - at the five other openings you could be attending, scattered across this seaside capital?

This is the [pleasant] conundrum faced by those lucky enough to be in Senegal for this year's Biennale, which has become one of the biggest - and definitely the coolest - contemporary art events on the African continent.

The Biennale, which opened last month and runs through June, is the zenith of the city's ebullient cultural calendar, drawing in artists, collectors and trendsetters from across the world.

But experiencing art in Dakar is easy, and inspirational, any time of the year. Art and style are embedded in the everyday here, and those shut out of all the Biennale offers because of time or money can easily get their art fix just by taking a walk, in pretty much any direction.

The sandy street outside my apartment is a collage or relief, made new each morning by paw prints, motorcycle skids and stray bougainvillea blooms. A security guard's rickety chair made of pieces of worn-out canoe is still life. Fruit vendors create installations with mangoes and baggy umbrellas.

You don't need parties to spot beautiful outfits. On any old Friday, spend 10 minutes on any street corner, and you're guaranteed a tableau of people wearing avant-garde sunglasses, pointy slippers or funky heels, and a rainbow of shiny bazin boubous - beaten damask cotton robes.

The art on display at the former Palais de Justice this year is magnificent. But people come as much to wander around that half-ruins of the building itself - its hushed courtrooms, central courtyard and falling ceilings - as to see the curators' picks.

Here, coup plotters, would be assassins and opposition politicians were tried until cracks began appearing in the building's Brutalist concrete walls. It was abandoned in the early 1990s.

But it was still standing 24 years later, in 2016, when its doors were finally reopened to become the new home of the Biennale's main exhibition.

The feeling I get meanderings its halls is one I often encounter in Dakar. Particularly, it's a feeling that comes when I'm in a spluttering yellow taxi whose radio is playing lulling Sufi chants as it barrels down the Corniche, Dakar's seaside boulevard.

On the left, though sun bleached palm fronds, are miles of pale sea; on the right, the call to prayer is echoing from near and distant mosques. 

It's a feeling of sweet nostalgia for a time I am still living through, in a city I still call home.

The Publishing continues. The World Students Society thanks authors Ruth Maclean and Carmen Abd Ali.


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