“How much you gonna pay me?” snapped an A's cap-wearing street vendor.
“Fey la uma, dé! I’m not paying, man!” I retorted in the hip-cocked Dakaroise pose of outrage I’d been perfecting all week.
When a tubaab acts à la Sénégalaise, it’s often a big hit, at least in quartiers well-frequented by tourists. So the kid I was trying to film opened up and chatted with me a bit. Interrogated me, rather.
“What’s your little documentary going to do for me, huh?” He asked.
I presented my argument as best as my Wolof permitted. I’m making a documentary about internet use in Senegal. If I show it in the States, maybe people will start thinking differently about Africa and invest more money. The impact wouldn’t be over night, but eventually, it might help expand internet access in Senegal.
He gave me a blank stare. So I tried a more direct approach:
“Buma montree film bi ci Amerik, nit waa Amerik di nanu la jox xalis” // If I show this film in America, Americans will give you money.
Neither I, nor he, were convinced by this logic. So my interrogator took revenge.
From the pocket of his torn Adidas sweatpants, he drew a black cell phone. He pointed it at my head. Flash. Then the entire crowd of teens that had been watching this tubaab spectacle drew their own cellular weapons and opened fire.
“Leggi yow nga may fey! // Now you’ve gotta pay me!” I shouted, as my shocked and amused expression appeared on the screens of about 10 flip phones.
Long story short, I didn’t get the shot I wanted. Instead, I have a 9 second clip of a shiny black cell phone obscuring the face of a kid who, better than anyone in Brown’s Modern Culture and Media department, could give a convincing argument about the thorny ethics of visual representation.