Hélène et Thomas Chassaing fr / en

American Spirit & Obamania


Twenty years ago a friend and I made a trip by bush taxi, a sort of voyage of initiation as one says now, through West Africa (Senegal, Mauritania, Mali and Guinea-Konakry). As I remember it, most people, in the cities as well as the countryside, wore “traditional” clothes (boubous, printed cottons...). Bob Marley and all the Rastafarian paraphernalia were also very popular.

This time, from the first day of my 8 month bicycle trip that led me from Dakar to Ouagadougou, I was by turns (depending on my mood and exhaustion) amused or annoyed by the clothing codes I encountered. Pretty soon, when I had a moment or the inclination, I began to photograph the “Obamaniacs, fashion victims, and other rappers” that I ran into.

It’s not hard to see that this is indicative of a long-term trend in these countries, and I imagine that for a long time already sociologists, ethnographers, demographers..., have been taking account of it in their work.