late afternoon in saint-louis

art and coffee and anything in between

things are moving

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Last April during the festival Le Fleuve en Couleur I had an exhibition in which I was looking at the relationship of motion and stillness through photographs and a video installation. I have recently returned to this theme and completed a new series of photographs showing some of the buildings of Saint-Louis in a new light. This material will make a new exhibition I hope!

quai nord

This is a print transfer on wood of a photograph I took one early morning on the Northern Quai. You can see the mainland Corniche through this truck that usually carries bottles, now empty.

don’t mess with me

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Another metal themed photograph, even though I am more attracted to work with objects that are organic and alive. Somehow this pile of metal structures just had me stop and wonder about the beauty of its layers. I found them at a friend’s workshop around the corner. I suppose by now they have ended up as a fence or a gate somewhere on the island.

wrinkled light

Myllysillan pinta_originaali

I have decided to create a weekly photographic diary and this is my first entry. Since we are in a summer holiday period, I decided to start with one of my favourite photographs from my own very recent holiday. I love to watch moving water and its reflections and how they produce different degrees of shades and light. During my holiday I walked under one of the bridges in downtown Turku and was mesmerised by the moving light I saw on this steel surface. When the sun is reflected from the surface of the river, it creates a double reflection effect on the bottom of this particular bridge. I was surprised to see people pass by unstopped in front of this (or rather: under it) – perhaps they were used to it.

meuh oui !

It’s that time of the year when the town briefly switches off to a quieter mode, although the word “quiet” and Saint-Louis do not mix very well. The soundscape of the town was already altered by the holy month of Ramadan that was filled with beautiful sounds of people gathering together, and the buzz of Guet Ndar Market after sunset, and with even more emotional reciting of the Koran in street corners. All this was of course accompanied by the usual sounds of sheep and a few odd cows passing by.

Hydrobasen lehmät

About a year ago I shot cows on video here in Saint-Louis and I got rather excited about their seemingly uncomplicated group dynamics that I witnessed while doing it. The cows were first a little suspicious of my hanging around, but soon they just went on with their business of eating grass. Now, since I am collecting exhibition material on these beautiful creatures, I regret that I did not chat with the herder more at that time. If I had the chance, I would now ask him what it is that he says to his cows? Or does he talk to them? And if the cows are far away, does he call for them and if yes, how? I have told about my project to some of my friends and they all tell me that yes, the Sereer and the Peules do have their own ways of calling cows, and yet my friends don’t seem to remember more in detail how – they are so urban! – apart from one whose demonstration went like “ki-ki-ki-ki-ki” and “nyi-nyi-nyi, niy-nyi-nyi-nyi””

Once we went to a nearby Fulani village with a film maker friend of mine and we took with us a statue of a two-headed cow, made out of old bicycle parts by Meissa Fall. The idea was to film cows upon their return home. We were warmly welcomed to the village and the elders let us sit down and have tea while we were waiting for the cows. But after a while, the eldest of the village let us understand that we would have to leave. We realised that the two-headed cow upset him too much, so we left and soon found a herd that was passing by on their way home. We put the two-headed cow on their path and set up a nice angle to shoot on video and waited. When the cows were close enough to see their metallic replica, they got jumpy and slightly nervous, only briefly though, and made a detour. The eldest of the village was right to send us away, you would not want this kind of a welcoming committee in your home!

Calf in a village

Apart from this short trip in the bush I have not yet had proper time to go and observe the life of local cows and their herdsmen in more detail, but I will soon be looking for sample sounds that herders make to gather up their cattle. I suppose no cow herder in Saint-Louis is going to read this post, but I would be happy to hear any reaction on this subject from whoever reads this. Have you heard local people call their cows? Or talk to them?

all that jazz.. and afrobeat and mangoes

Saint-Louis is pampered with great music and great jazzy vibes thanks to Saint-Louis Jazz Festival and numerous off-gigs in various venues in town. To celebrate the occasion we have ignited our roaster again to make a fresh new batch of coffee. This time the journey of the beans can be traced back all the way to Cameroon. We suggest you give this coffee a try as an ice latte and while you’re at it, you can indulge yourself with not just jazz and mbalax but also some recently acquired great vintage vinyls, starting from Fela Kuti, Orchestra Baobab and Bamako Rail band! We have not only a new batch of coffee but a batch of some great classic albums for you to browse – a chance not to be missed!

Vinyyli 3

Last but not least, a small side note: as the mango season is about to begin, we have been dreaming of getting creative again with cakes.. only one thing seems to be missing: we are out of gelatine and so far have not been able to locate the stuff on the island. So if you have an idea where to find it, or how to replace it with some perhaps lesser known traditional method, please do let us know. If your lead helps us, we’ll invite you for a treat!

camel milk

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Have you ever tasted the traditional staple diet of the bedouins, camel milk? It is full of proteins, vitamins and carbohydrates to keep your engine going in the desert. In a more urban setting: we have always had camel milk on our menu, although so far we have actually never tried camel milk in a coffee. This stuff is a rich source of proteins with potential antimicrobial and protective activities, and since it has more fat and protein than cow’s milk, it should, at least in theory, make a great froth.

Usually the taste of camel milk is slightly sweet and creamy and sometimes you can almost taste the camel’s diet in the milk. Last time we detected hints of acacia in it, or was it just our imagination? Whatever the case, try it out at least once, it’s a very refreshing drink, served ice cold!

harar in the pan

Today I roasted two kilos of Harar Oda-Bultum beans. This coffee comes from the Eastern part of Harar in Eastern Ethiopia. This is where the famous Harari coffee farmers produce their crop and dry their coffee in the sun. The drying process guarantees that you have a very particular earthy Harar flavour, sought by many roasters and coffee lovers, and particularly so by the Saudis who buy most of these coffees of the highest grade. Roasting Harar evenly has its own challenges, and especially with our traditional roaster operated by swinging the drum by hand!

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A mix of two batches of Harar.

The fact that roasting involves very high temperatures, and that to detect the degree of roast I need to open that drum while roasting, are other challenging parts of the job. And since we are in the tropics, even the time of the day matters: I am roasting outside so that I can let the smoke out freely – and there is always a lot of smoke where coffee is being roasted – and this means I need to do it in the early morning when it is not too hot and when I can still see the flame from the gaz burner. Later in the day the daylight is so bright that I cannot adjust the flame well. Likewise, in the evening  when it’s getting dark, I can see the flame very clearly but then it is too hard to see the beans in the drum. In the end, to get the degree of roast I am looking for is a mix of listening to the beans rattle and crack, checking, swinging again, checking again and calculating the last one minute or thirty seconds of roasting before letting the beans quickly out of the drum. These calculations include also the after roast, because we do not have a cooler at hand.

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Fresh out of the pan! Typically with Harar and other sun-dried coffees, there is plenty of chuff (the outer layer or skin of the bean) coming off in the roasting process.

we are roasting in short cycles

Did you know that we are running a small artisanal roastery in Saint-Louis, with various premium quality Ethiopian coffees? These coffees make excellent cups, and particularly so due to the fact that we are roasting our beans very slowly with a gaz roaster that we designed ourselves. A slow roast means that we roast one batch for almost twenty minutes, and this makes interesting coffee profiles, suitable for demanding tastes and  Arabica coffee lovers.

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These coffees can be tasted in our local coffee shop Ndar Ndar Music & Café located at Rue Blaise Diagne, opposite Hotel de la Tour. If you are in Dakar, you can also discover these coffees at SUUF Coffee in Nord Foire. We have also a stand at the Dakar Farmers Market in Marina Bay (Route de l’Aéroport) every first Saturday of the month – welcome to say hello and talk coffee!

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