Market Imaginary

Film Screening and Discussion

Market Imaginary, written, directed and produced by Joanna Grabski, explores the commercial/social, historical/spatial, and visual/creative imaginaries around Colobane Market in Dakar, Senegal. The market is aptly characterized by the Wolof dictum, “Lepp looy wut rekk am na marsé Colobane (You can find anything in the world at Colobane Market).” The objects populating market stalls ‐‐ colorful plastics, tattered journals, used clothing and shoes as well as watches, radios and cell phones ‐‐ oblige the eye and the imagination to travel. Viewed collectively, the range of objects and points of origin they invoke visualize the market as a coalescence of multiple geographical and temporal circuitries. As much as the market represents the convergence of objects, people, and possibilities, it is also the point from which these ensembles diverge and take new directions. Conceptual elements associated with mobility, urbanization, and connectedness (transits, passages, conduits) and the possibilities they promise are deeply embedded in the market imaginary. Like the market, the neighborhood is associated with mobility and convergence due to its geographical positioning in Dakar and proximity to the railroad line, bus depot, and highway.

This film considers the many ways Colobane market is embedded in its neighborhood and the broader imagination of Dakar’s residents. The film is composed of an introduction and three chapters. The first chapter considers the speculations involved in market business for both buyers and sellers. The second chapter focuses on the history and development of the market and neighborhood following the displacement of populations during the French colonial era. The third chapter explores the processes of creativity and reinvention by examining how artists use the material resources and visual possibilities offered by the market and city more broadly. The film thus offers a document and theorization about the market and neighborhood as notional spaces — it advances interconnected narratives about the movement of people and objects, alternative global and creative economies, and the prospects for transforming second hand goods.

Joanna Grabski is Associate Professor and Chair of Art History at Denison University. Her research and publications have focused on visual and urban projects in Dakar, Senegal and Brazzaville, Congo. Her essays have appeared in several edited collections and academic journals including Art Journal, African Arts, Fashion Theory, NkaPrésence Francophone, and Social Dynamics. She was guest editor of a special issue of Africa Today dedicated to “Visual Experience in Urban Africa” (2007) and co‐editor of the book, African Art, Interviews, Narratives: Bodies of Knowledge at Work (Indiana University Press, 2013). Her current project is a book about artists and urban visuality in Dakar entitled, Art World City.

Suggested Companion Readings to the Film:

Joanna Grabski, “Market Logics: How Locality and Mobility Make
Artistic Livelihoods in Dakar,” Social Dynamics 37, 3 (2011): 321-331.
Republished in Rogue Urbanism: Emergent African Cities, edited by
Edgar Pieterse and AbdouMaliq Simone (Jacana Media and African Centre
for Cities, 2013).

Joanna Grabski, “Mobility, Visuality, and the Market Imaginary in
Dakar,” in Mamadou Diouf and Rosalind Fredericks, eds. Imaginaires
Esthetiques et Représentations Politiques: Espaces Contestés et
Civilites Urbaines au Sénégal (Éditions Karthala: forthcoming 2013).

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