Informal Economy

The people

is a political category

what the official state excludes from its supposedly legitimate “People”.

“Le peuple n’est pas une population”

Cheick Anta Diop

“Population : c’est un mot chéri du vocabulaire bourgeois. Il sert d’antidote à classe, trop brutal et d’ailleurs sans réalité. Le terme population est chargé de dépolitiser la pluralité des groupes et des minorités, en repoussant les individus dans une collection neutre, passive”

Roland Barthes

Dakar 2018

The work of fishermen in the immense sea space is more than labour.

It involves an empirical knowledge. The reading of the kosmos, of the order of the world (κόσμος in ancient greek means order).  An awareness of the clouds on a given day, a knowledge of the behaviour of sea fauna, an intimacy with the patterns of bird migration, an expertise in the varieties of ocean currents, a skill at charting the motions of the sun and other planetary bodies and a reading of the numerous winds. Currents, astronomy, winds.

The People is that which experiences itself as a form of life. The only way the people develops its culture is by living their lives, indifferent to capitalism.  Autonomy therefore means desertion and reappropriation of basic survival. 

The popular, informal, relational economy alternative to the hegemonic western capitalism nourishes African people. This economy is first of all a social relationship, it gives priority to interpersonal and inter-community relations. Money can be a consequence, it is not the goal. Communities don’t accumulate because they don’t want to accumulate, it’s not a backward economy, it’s another vision of the world: gift-giving, a form of social contract, based on reciprocity, founding a society based on collective exchanges practices, allowing the redistribution of wealth. The rights of life are these anonymous everyday acts that repeat themselves again and again, producing nothing but their ephemeral sense. The palpitation of life of this “underdeveloped, third world” despised, exploited, brutalized.

The sadness of some. The joy of others.

In any case, there are happy countries and there are countries with happy people and perhaps the two do not perfectly overlap. Happiness is definitely not an economic metric. 

Baye Fall Communitas

Mouride community
BayeFall, Guediawaye, Senegal 2018

Baye Fall represent the Mourifiyya’s brotherhood, a Sufi brotherhood of Senegal whose founder is Cheick Ahamadou Bamba (1853-1927), who led a peaceful resistance to colonization, relying on values of Islam syncretized with ancestral beliefs and practices.

The Mourifiyya represent the first black Muslim brotherhood, after the anterior brotherhoods of Qadiriiyya originated during XII century  in Iran  and the Tijaniya originated during XVIII in Maghreb.

In this community there is a very great solidarity instilled by a culture of work and effort, of commitment to self-giving. This strong sense of belonging to a community based on socio-cultural and religious values creates a dynamic transnational alternative economy.

When their members are on a business trip, there is a system of compensation transfers between members of this community  to avoid the costs of the traditional banking system. This shows that another economy is possible based on relation, contact. A  non violent contestation of the capitalist violence.

Sabar Dance

Informal Economy
Guediawaye 2016

The social significance of dance and music in urban Senegal goes beyond ritual and/or entraitement.Sabar are the most popular dance events in Dakar, held to celebrate births, marriages, political and sporting events.These Sabar events are animated by the live performances  of women dancers and  drummers. Women act as the main choreographers, participants and coordinators and asserts their agency in the informal economy: the payment of a fee to participate in the event facilitates the circulation of money between different social subjects. Sabar acts as a powerful connective space between the economic dimension of daily life and the social dimension of gender-identity formation. Women’s engagement with the embodied prectices of Sabar become a way to negotiate their economic and social status and to construct their sense of the self in the context of globalisation. Street Sabar provides a privileged arena in which women perform as active protagonists, often celebrating an explicitly erotic feminine aesthetic, which unsettled the dominant  Muslim women posture ( most of the women dancing at Sabar are Muslim and 95 percent of the population in Senegal is Muslim). In this context, dance provides a source of sociality, networking, and identification that is independent of the Islamic religion and yet not antagonistic to it. In all Sabar events women dance in solos or in duets, asserting their individuality and personality by producing creative variations on a common repertory of steps. Highly skilled dancers are able to challenge drummers to play more complex and ever faster rhythms, earning with their skills the right to influence and even temporarily lead the drum ensemble. The lead drummer and the dancer engage in a rhythmic and kinetic tete a tete that evolves into a provocative dialogue.In the encounter between dancer and lead drummer, often a special rhythm is generated, either by the drummer, who influences the dancer, or by the dancer, who leads the drummer to spell out her movements with his playing. The verbalisation of rhythm, the singing the rhythm, The translation of dancing into drumming and drumming into dancing generates a form of orality that allows for communication between them, a call n response interaction between the dancing n drumming. The relationship of dancing to polyrhythms is articulated thought complex drumming patterns and singing rather than counting. Feeling the choreographic movements means to create a choreography with the calls of the drums rather than thought mathematical formulas. The dancer’s solos are the result of complex negotiations between the dancers and the drummers, that is judged by the audience who shares the knowledge of the choreographic codes and is able to assess the dancers creativity and the relationship between their choreographic choices and the skills necessary to embody them. The complex informal economic dimention’s intanglement in Sabar event is moreover expressed through the beautifying the body (called in wolof sanse) which involves the agency of hair dressers and tailors. The styling of the body (thought hair, make up and dress) is a way to perform and assert the individual identity in constant tension with hegemonic social norm in a polygamous social society, where relation between women are marked by solidarity as well as competition.