Published: Edmond Fortier, 1920s
Postmark: possibly 1925
At one stall in the Kermel, that of Samba Beye, one can find bronze figures ranging from a few inches to several feet high, starting at $10 and climbing to hundreds of dollars. One piece depicted a seated man playing the cora, a stringed instrument made from a calabash, a gourdlike fruit; another was of a man playing a balafon, a xylophone with wooden keys resting on calabashes.
Another booth in the Kermel features paintings on glass (about $7), which are created by etching and then painting on the back of a piece of glass. The images are usually done in soft colors and often depict scenes of village life.
It is also at the Kermel that one finds the basket man, in one of the stalls that surround the central building. The afternoon of my visit, as a young man sat weaving cane, I chose from among hundreds of woven baskets that had an unfamiliar smell of freshness. My purchase – a set of three nesting baskets, a large open basket and a lidded, barrel-shaped basket – came to $11.
Shopper’s World; Dakar’s Markets: Strategies For Buyers (NY Times, 1985)
The covered Marché Kermel, behind Ave Sarraut and within walking distance of Marché Sandaga, sells a mixture of foodstuffs and souvenirs. It’s mainly worth visiting for the beautiful building that shelters its busy stalls. The original 1860 construction burnt down in 1994, but the 1997 reconstruction has been closely modelled on the building’s initial structure and decoration.
In 1865, a large shed on Kermel’s square was designed by the Department of Bridges and Roadways (le service des ponts et chaussées) of the colony of Senegal for the protection of commodities from dust, rain and sun. It was a strictly functional structure made of metal pillars and roofing, with no embellishment, intended, inter alia, to reduce the street-stall phenomenon that was condemned by the colonial administration.
The name ’Kermel’ (then Quermel) was probably a distortion of ’Kernel’ (quernel) – referring to the thriving regional commerce in grains and spices. Such functional, simple, and modest structures like Kermel’s first version were perfectly conformed with the initial needs of the colonial authorities, both British and French, especially in West Africa – the poor relative of other colonialisms in regions that were considered as more privileged and worthy of investment.
The transformation of the shed of Kermel into a semi-monumental market in the 1900s was in perfect conformity with these developments. The new version of Kermel was based on prefabricated iron foundation and its architectural design, winner of a competition closed on 31 October 1907, was in line with the form of the polygonal square. The work started in April 1908 and was completed by 1910. It included a prefabricated gallery encircling the main body of the building and a prefabricated metal skeleton that was casted in France. Kermel evokes qualities similar to the great metal markets which were erected in metropolitan France itself and in other European countries by the late nineteenth century.
(Re-)Producing the Marché Kermel