art of resistance

The only record store in Mauritania

Brownbook has a great story about the only record store in Mauritania, Saphire D’Or.

“All the vinyl records that were in Mauritania, I pretty much have them here”

‘I started the shop in 1979,’ Vall explains. ‘Thirty five years ago.’ A short man with cropped grey hair, he seems much younger. Vall was born in Nema, far in the east of the country. ‘At that time, it took six days to travel to the capital,’ he says. Like so many others fleeing the drought and hardships of the countryside, Vall settled in Nouakchott. With a steady supply of music from Mali and Senegal, he built the Saphire D’Or.

Over the years, the Saphire D’Or has become more of a library than a store, or as he likes to call it, his ‘museum’.

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Vertical-2all photos ©  Bechir Malum/Brownbook

For the full story and more photos, go to Brownbook.

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art of resistance, travel

Oualata, Mauritania: A garden in Sahara.

Oualata is a small oasis town in Mauritania. It was an important  caravan city in the 13th and 14th century, as the southern terminus of a trans-Saharan traderoute.

An important trans-Saharan route began at Sijilmasa and passed through Taghaza with its salt mines and ended at Oualata. The Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta used this route in 1352 on his way to the city of Mali, the capital of the Mali Empire. Ibn Battuta found the inhabitants of Oualata were Muslim and mainly Massufa, a section of the Senhaja. He was surprised by the great respect and independence that women enjoyed. He only gives a brief description of the town itself:

“My stay at Iwalatan (Oualata) lasted about fifty days; and I was shown honour and entertained by its inhabitants. It is an excessively hot place, and boasts a few small date-palms, in the shade of which they sow watermelons. Its water comes from underground waterbeds at that point, and there is plenty of mutton to be had.”

Oualata has its modern descriptions too – by other kind of explorers – photographers. Pascal Meunier is a photographer whose work I’ve  covered before, but this time I am putting his photo series Oualata, a garden in the Sahara in the spotlight.

Artist statement:

Sand almost smothered Oualata from the memory of men. The knell sounded for this caravan stage of Mauritania with the end of the trans-Saharian trade on which it once based its fortune. Isolated, ruined and forgotten, it has just won a formidable bet, that of its survival, thanks to the initiatives of a handful of unconditional ones, fallen under its spell.

OUALATA, A GARDEN IN THE SAHARA - MAURITANIA

OUALATA, A GARDEN IN THE SAHARA - MAURITANIA

OUALATA, A GARDEN IN THE SAHARA - MAURITANIA

OUALATA, A GARDEN IN THE SAHARA - MAURITANIA

OUALATA, A GARDEN IN THE SAHARA - MAURITANIA

OUALATA, A GARDEN IN THE SAHARA - MAURITANIA

OUALATA, A GARDEN IN THE SAHARA - MAURITANIA

OUALATA, A GARDEN IN THE SAHARA - MAURITANIA

OUALATA, A GARDEN IN THE SAHARA - MAURITANIAall images © Pascal Muenier

For more of Meunier’s work, go to his official website.

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