As many of you know, I work in the urban planning field. I love cities! I love how the diverse elements of a city function together amid what seems to be chaos, and admittedly, sometimes IS chaos. So I have to publicly chastise myself for neglecting to give Dar a chance to be a “real city,” or at least in my mind what I think a “real city” should be.
In my defense, Dar, like other cities in developing nations, is a vastly and utterly incomprehensible place to the naive Westerner. Moreover, my favorite thing about cities, that is, the ability to be anonymous, is completely unattainable for most “mzungus” (white people), and especially for diplomats. My attitude towards Dar is likely evident through my writing and that is why I want to share a different perspective.
Artist Sarah Markes documents architecture and street life in Dar es Salaam. If there is anything that has caught my eye in Dar, she has sketched it. Though I have never met Sarah, she has given me permission to show her work here and display what I think is a valuable perspective to anyone who considers themselves a Dar “outsider.” Despite being a resident, I include myself in that category.
What draws me so much to Sarah’s work is that she clearly sees what I see, but her interpretation is so much more compelling. For me, her sketches highlight the link between art, how we experience a place and our attitudes towards that place. Honestly, I like her perception better and I would like to adopt it.
Now, I don’t want to go too far in saying that art can and should romanticize what clearly needs to change. For example, as of yet, there are no sketches depicting beggars with missing limbs, no illustration of corruption at play. That is a different kind of art. However, it is worth noting that I feel more optimistic about this place after seeing her work.
If you are interested in viewing more Dar street life, I encourage you to visit Sarah’s websites: www.sarahmarkes.com and her blog darsketches.wordpress.com. Both sites display copious sketches and the blog gives some background information on her project, “Dar Sketches” which will soon become a book. If you look closely, you might find an illustration of a photo I posted several weeks ago advertising tea.