West Africa has been known for centuries for extensive trade networks that have made it possible for people in the region to buy popular items from as far away as China and India.
The markets function as crossroads where local people meet a wider world, both in terms of goods and peoples. Today the markets of West Africa are blossoming as never before. In the exhibition Made in Africa - Scenes from African Market Life we dive into these markets in Mali and Senegal, where we ask, what is it that pulls people into the markets in these countries? What kinds of goods can be purchased there, and where are they produced? In what ways is today's market a meeting place between the global and the local?
Internet, TV, film, advertising, tourism and migration spread knowledge and ideas about how people live and consume in every part of the world. Such a global flow of ideas contributes to forming people's dreams of the good life, and this applies just as much to the poor areas of the world as it does to the rich. In Mali and Senegal, the small elites of the capital cities, Bamako and Dakar, may have the means to obtain whatever they might desire. For the remainder of the population the distance between dream and reality can be enormous.
Most people in West Africa go into the marketplaces, not the shops, to do their shopping, for it is in the markets that people can find a desired object, or a copy of the unattainable item, at a price within reach, and generally long before it is available in the shops. Sellers in the markets offer a hodge-podge of electronic equipment from Korea, cosmetics from Paris, tea and enamelled basins from China and Nigeria, old newspapers and used clothing from New York, local textile materials in every imaginable colour and quality, and cheap kitchen utensils made out of recycled plastic and metal - to mention but a few of the goods on offer.
African markets testify not only to the tough struggle for survival, but also to great resourcefulness and invention among local traders as they seek to satisfy people's needs and desires. There is nothing that is not for sale, be it imported, used or locally produced. The marketplace functions as a local solution to globally influenced dreams.