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Fish Market

Project YK-02 Fish market

Introduction and start

December 1, 2014



The fish market area of Yène Kao is a lively and busy place. There is a group of men and women who stay in the small fish market house. Around 20 people work there every day, on busy days this number can be double. The shellfish go to the women, they spend the whole day breaking and cleaning them for drying or fresh export. Other women sell snacks and drinks to fishermen who have just arrived. The men classify and weigh the cuttlefish, squids, octopus and different types of sole. Endlessly scribbling in their notebooks. These species will all be exported and are picked up each day at the end of the afternoon. 


Apart from the fish market house, many activities are spread out over the area. The catch that is not exported, a variety of fish, is cleaned on the beach and taken into the village to dry, eat or sell. Meanwhile there are men making, repairing and painting boats. Others are fixing nets. Former fishermen like to hang around close to shore, for a chat and to help push the boats onto the beach. For the elderly it is a good way to stay in shape. The area is a central place for the village with a constant hustle and bustle of people and catch of the day. 


Roos involved the women at the fish market house to start our next placemaking project. Speaking to individuals and small groups to better understand their circumstances and explain how we work. We offered our expertise and a budget of 75 thousand FCFA (110 euros). Even with this financial limit many larger ideas were proposed giving an overview of what could be done in the coming years, but not now. Also, discussing the public good is often bent towards opportunities for private gain. This does offer interesting insights into perceived businesses, nearly all women want to start a shop of some sort. 


In the end, one wish stood out clearly amongst all the ideas of the women: more shade. The fish market house is often overcrowded and many of the women end up working in the sun. An unused corner next to the fish market house was chosen to create a new place with shade. 


We started designing low budget ways to create shade and organised a workshop to discuss our proposals. Totally unexpected 25 women showed up, great but much too many for focused discussions. Nonetheless they chose a design and we noted their valuable feedback and ideas. A few days later tools were gathered and we started work. 


Most of the work was appointed to the men, who offered to rotate and help whenever possible. The early morning and later afternoon turned out the best time for this, so we take mid-day breaks to do other work. The women bring sand every day, for cement and filling the inner area. 



Day by day the enthusiasm of those involved is growing. We get good help and people are really thinking along with the work to be done. The people at the fish market have known us since our arrival in February. Since then we have slowly won some trust, which is clearly paying off now that we are working together. 

Project YK-02 Fish market

Work in Progress

December 21, 2014



Within this project we are experimenting with rice bags as affordable material to create shade. Compared to other materials rice bags are very cheap, 100 FCFA apiece (0,15 euro). The labour needed to reinforce and shape the rice bags is relatively inexpensive too. This way shade sails can be created that are much cheaper than canvas or a roof. How durable this solution is will have to be seen. We have done our best to add all necessary details to make them last. 


The largest sewing machines can be found at the upholstery workshops, where chairs and sofas are made. Boubacar Ndiaye has previously shown an interest in trying new methods and materials. He agreed to do all the sewing work for a very reasonable price. 


We try to do as much work as possible with the voluntary help of those involved. The women of the fish market house reinforced the corners of the shade sails and prepared the lacing. The days after the men helped set up the ropes and fix the sails.  


For a mural on the wall we proposed to paint an animal from the sea. We left it to the women and men of the fish market house to decide which animal it should be. They came back with a list of the four most important species: cuttlefish, sole and two types of shellfish. If it had to be one it was cuttlefish, economically the most important of all. We have promised to incorporate the shellfish into a future project, as these are the most important for the women. 


To make a low wall to enclose the area white stones were donated to the project. Volcanic red stones were gathered in the hills. We had seen some of the stone walls and decorations made by Ousseynou Bâ and asked him to build the wall. After the estimated three days of work the wall was half finished. Everyone involved appreciated his work so much that we decided to accept the extra work. 


We had exceeded the budget and the cement was finished. By now new ideas had evolved as well. The people involved discussed the issue together and collected money for the project. A wonderful gesture. It was enough to finish the wall, build some benches and buy a tree and plants. They also found someone to donate old boat wood to make seats for the benches. 


The fact that everyone involved was present during the project was very valuable. We got plenty of help whenever needed and all options and problems could be dealt with right away on the spot. During the work several individuals stood out in their effort to do all they could to support the project. We had not expected this and feel very grateful. 



Many people passing by comment on the project, often calling out rafet na torop, very beautiful. They also repeatedly ask if the project is already finished, when there is clearly still a lot of work to be done. This is interesting. 

work in progress fishmarket 1

Project YK-02 Fish market


January 4, 2015


Our second project is finished and has really exceeded our expectations. We are happy with the way the different project elements turned out and work together as a whole. But the help and gratitude we received from the people is the most important of all.


The visit of Lebou leader Mactar Diop was very special. You can read about this in the December blog. 


After his visit we finished the mural of a cuttlefish. The large yerende has become talk of the town. Most people have never seen a painting like this and walk up close to see how it has been made. The fishermen are all very pleased, this is something they can relate to. Speculations are going around as to how much the giant animal would weigh.


We also got a compliment that was very disapointing. The women have decided that the new place is too beautiful to work. They want to keep it clean. This is striking, because the place was designed with them and for them. We are glad they are happy, but for us this is an important lesson to be learned.


With all the work finished we planned for a small opening. After all the decorum, ceremony and  important people during the visit of Mactar Diop we felt it was best to only celebrate with those involved. This way we could thank them for their participation without all the attention going to someone else. 


The women danced and sang, a wonderful way to inaugurate the new place! We held a small speech, explaining how special it is for us to work together this way. As representative of the men and women of the fish market house Mour Faye gave a speech. “Hamza and Rosa have shown us the way forward. Now it is up to us to continue on this road. We see possibilities now, we can make this place better and it doesn’t have to be expensive”. Finally the name of the place was revealed by Ndaye Fatou Gueye and Mour Faye: Place Mactar Diop. Place is French for a square.


The place was officially open and drinks and snacks were served. We spoke to many people. We often heard the same type of comment. “Honestly, we did not have an idea it would be like this.” “We could never imagine this was possible, we are very proud” We hope this can be an example for future projects. Offering a point of reference before we start and letting people join in the joy of imagining what is possible.


Since the opening the place is well used. Unfortunately we only see women there sometimes, there are mostly men. Thanks to this the fish market house is a little less overcrowded, also benefiting the women. 


So, mission accomplished? Not really. Successful project? Yes.

results fishmarket 1
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