DAWANAU MARKET, NIGERIA
I WENT TO NIGERIA IN 2010 looking for something good in Africa that was not set up by a foreign NGO. What I found was a huge grain market just outside Kano in Muslim Northern Nigeria. I was there at the end of the four-month rainy season when enormous trucks were coming in from as far away as Mali and Ghana and leaving with sacks of sorghum, peanuts, millet and maize. The Hausa people who dominate the area are known to be good farmers and traders and as far as I could see the market was well-run. It had a chairman and elected officers and five separate market associations. The workers had a union and were happy to have a job even it it paid only a few dollars a day. As for corruption, it was surely there, but of course I couldn't see it.
Because cassava and maize were milled in the market I photographed the white flour dust as it settled on black faces—the reverse of those iconic American images of black coal dust on white faces. Breathing in flour isn't as bad as breathing in coal, but when I got home a doctor friend said it couldn't be good for lungs.
I have no photos of the market at night after it closed because various association heads shooed me away. I was told theft wasn't a big problem and that prostitutes had been kicked out of the trucking area when Shariah came to Kano in 2000, so maybe the problem was that I was a woman in a patriarchal society and my place, especially at night, was with my family in my home.