The Ladybug can hear the song of the African sea (in a seashell)

The Ladybug Chronicles Cowrie Shell Necklace (2)

Cowrie shells are such a trend right now, but I have always loved them for many reasons: they remind me of the sea which I still miss a lot and they have specific meanings in the African culture, being one of the many traditional symbols.

I was indeed in Africa, more specifically in Senegal on the Yoff beach, when I saw a woman on the beach selling this amazing statement cowrie necklace and I could help buying it even if I immediately imagined how I could wear it. “Wear it when you feel it, darling” – she said – “Don’t care about matching it with your clothes”. I loved her suggestion and I literally followed it when one morning I woke up with the urge of wearing the cowrie necklace!

The Ladybug Chronicles Cowrie Shell Necklace (5)

The Ladybug Chronicles Cowrie Shell Necklace (3)

The Ladybug Chronicles Cowrie Shell Necklace (4)

I wore it with a simple dark grey & Other Stories tee and with a vintage Benetton skirt from the 90s (it resisted for a long time in my wardrobe!).

Shoes are retro inspired sling-back kitten heels from Mango that I bought in Madrid last winter.

No need to say that I received lots of compliments for this wonderful necklace, including people asking in the streets where I got it from. I didn’t say that if they listened inside the shells they could hear the African sea singing a love song…

The Ladybug Chronicles Cowrie Shell Necklace (1)

The Ladybug Chronicles Cowrie Shell Necklace (6)

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The Ladybug and a dream coming true: Gorée Island, Senegal

The Ladybug Chronicles Gorée Senegal (6)

If I have been dreaming of Africa for more than 20 years, I have been dreaming of visiting Gorée Island for at least 15 years.

It all started when I read an article on the House of Slaves in Gorée, one of the oldest houses on the island where the African slaves were imprisoned and sent to America by boat. It is now a museum showing the horrors of the slave trade throughout the Atlantic world.

If Gorée is a wonderful island with a lovely beach and beautiful colored houses, with an ancient fort and a lot of artists and tourists, the House of Slaves experience is completely dramatic and sad. I decided to start the tour of the island from there and it was so emotional.

The Ladybug Chronicles Gorée Senegal (1)

The Ladybug Chronicles Gorée Senegal (2)

The Ladybug Chronicles Gorée Senegal (13)

The Ladybug Chronicles Gorée Senegal (4)

A part of me was happy of finally being there, another one was ashamed and destroyed about the horrors showed and I started crying on the “infamous door”, the door from which the slaves were put on the boats to travel in cruel conditions to America where they were sold as slaves.

The house is dramatically beautiful and tragic at the same time. It took me a while to start the tour of the island by walk after the visit. Today, when I think of that visit I still feel the same feeling of shame and rage, especially if I wonder what has really changed since then.

The Ladybug Chronicles Gorée Senegal (3)

The Ladybug Chronicles Gorée Senegal (12)

The Ladybug Chronicles Gorée Senegal (5)

The Ladybug Chronicles Gorée Senegal (11)

I walked during all the afternoon throughout the island, I stopped to talk to a lot of people, to listen to the djembe players, to visit the fort and to stop by the artists communities all around the island. I enjoyed the breathtaking views, I bathed on the beautiful sea, I took a lot of pictures of the colored houses…I really needed all these things to recover from the visit to the House of Slaves.

The boats from Dakar to Gorée and the way back are very frequent and are also a beautiful way to enjoy the Senegalese life: many people living in Dakar work in Gorée and they travel every day. Opposite to what usually happens in Europe they enjoy a good talk with tourists and I personally enjoyed too. It is a way to know each other, in every possible way.

The Ladybug Chronicles Gorée Senegal (7)

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The Ladybug and the African (Senegalese) Blues

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (15)

It took a while to write this blog post on my trip to Senegal last summer. It is hard for me to write about it because it was a life changing experience and even after 5 months it is still in my head and I feel the African blues every single day of my life. I want to go back and I know that I will but the urge sometimes is unbearable.

It was my first time in Africa: I have been dreaming of it for more than 20 years but I was so scared of my reaction that I postponed this trip forever until I decided that it was something that I had to do, a dream that I wanted to make come true.

I brought with me a notebook because I wanted to write down everything but I was so overwhelmed by all my emotions and feelings that I came back home with a blank notepad. Everything was impacting me beyond words and even now I am unable to express my feelings by words.

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (3)

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (1)

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (2)

My trip to Dakar in Senegal was a kind of test for my reaction, just for your understanding: I was tempted to stay there for the rest of my life and for the first time in my life I tried to postpone my ticket to go back to Italy. Also when I came back to Italy I suffered a lot: I missed everything from food to people, perfumes and familiar noises, the call for worship, the rhythm of mbalax, the wolof, the laughs, the constant happiness of those days, the kindness of people. I finally understood why they call it the country of “Teranga”, hospitality.

I had the chance to live with a Senegalese family (who is now my second family) in Dakar and I decided to visit the town and its surroundings during my stay. I leave the tour of the country from North to South for my next trip.

Dakar is a town full of life night and day: it is noisy and crowded but irresistible at the same time. It is easy to meet people, to talk to everyone and to enjoy the beaches, the rhythm and the food almost everywhere!  On some days I just wandered in the streets of Dakar without destination using taxis or the famous colored buses: the Medina, the Almadies area, Place de l’Indépendance, the Corniche, the beautiful beach of Yoff, the amazing markets of Sandaga, Kermel, Tilène, the mosques, the Museums and Galleries (my favorite ones were the Galérie Antenna and the IFAN museum).

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (4)

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The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (5)

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (11)

I started my tour with a special visit to the African Renaissance monument and the museum where you can also admire a wonderful view of the town, especially if you walk down the hill until the beach.

The surroundings of Dakar are also breathtaking: I will write a dedicated post to Gorée Island, which was for me a very special experience but I took the boat a second time to head to Ngor Island from the amazing Ngor beach. As it was August the island was pretty crowded on the beach side but if you walk to the rocky side of the island you will be surprised by the awesomeness of the views and maybe for the first time you will be completely alone.

I also headed by bus (this was a bit more complicated trip!) to the Pink Lake (Lac Retba) where I toured the lake on a pirogue…but unfortunately that day the lake wasn’t as pink as I imagined. Its salt content is very high which gives it its pink color but only in particular weather conditions.

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (7)

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (9)

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (8)

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (10)

So if you are not afraid of the African Blues (believe me, it’s the hardest thing) just book a flight to this amazing country and live it fully, breathe the love and buy all the amazing things that you can buy there (wax fabrics, African handmade jewels, colored baskets). Eat the best plates of the Senegalese cuisine (mafé, thieboudienne), the juicy mangoes or drink the bissap, the ginger and the buoy (the fruit of the baobab tree) and enjoy the incredible nature (you can see the most beautiful baobab trees and animals).

It can be a life changing experience especially if you decide to live it like locals: staying in small B&B instead of fancy hotels, going around by bus or shared taxis, walking, talking to people, basically enjoy the real Senegalese life.

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The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (14)

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (13)