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Photo Essay: MASA Festival in Abidjan, Part Five

Fisherman coming in to Yopougon, a suburb of Abidjan from the lagoon where the catch is cleaned and smoked. photo William Farrington

This report brings you scenes from around Abidjan for a change of pace and to give context to the festival experience, taken on this trip and a previous one. Abidjan has a striking visual presence molded by the Ebrié Lagoon, not unlike how water defines New York City. Plateau, the city center, sits on a peninsula accessed via bridge and ferry by many commuters. With colorful outlying neighborhoods, Plateau has a vertical compressed dynamic energy,

The Grand Hotel where I am staying in Plateau is an easy walk across the General de Gaulle bridge, or a $3 cab ride to the Palais de la Culture grounds where MASA’s activities are. I, and others I have spoken with, find Abidjan to be rebounding spectacularly from the civil war. My last visit here when the country was filled with uncertainty after disputed elections and the coup attempt (former president Laurent Gbagbo’s trial is just beginning in the Hague). Drummer Abou Diarrasouba, on tour with the Awa Sangho band, who hasn’t been back to his home town in seven years, agreed. The change is remarkable, security is good and people are enjoying life again, he observed.

And that is great news for local musicians. Music is back in the maquis (open-air restaurants), street parties, and in clubs like Champions, Parker Place and Le Pams, where African reggae, zouglou and coupe decale artists can be found performing nightly. Brisk development is also transforming the skyline. Recently opened hotels include the Radisson Blue, Onomo near the airport, and the Azalai on the Boulevard Giscard d’Estaing. Also, visitors should seek out a good local maquis like Chez Ambrose, in a parking lot in Marcory, but one of the best in Abidjan; or the Sole Plus in Treichville to enjoy attiéké with grilled fish or chicken.

Ferry service is used by many in their daily commute. The Ébrié lagoon defines Abidjan, creating a compressed vertical energy in Plateau, the city Center, and colorful surrounding neighborhoods accessed by privately owned ferries. photoWilliam Farrington

Ferry service is used by many in their daily commute. The Ébrié Lagoon defines Abidjan, creating a compressed vertical energy in Plateau, the city center, and colorful surrounding neighborhoods accessed by privately owned ferries. All photos by William Farrington

Plateau, city center, a construction boom is underway underscoring the positve energy in Abidjan following several years of unrest. Several new hotels have been built or planned and a new bridge opened in 2014 connecting Cocody and Marcory neighborhoods, and relieving traffic congestion.

Plateau, city center: A construction boom is underway, underscoring the positve energy in Abidjan following several years of unrest. Several new hotels have been built or planned, and a new bridge opened in 2014 connecting the Cocody and Marcory neighborhoods and relieving traffic congestion.

A woman steaming Attiéké, pronounced ah-check-ay, a local staple made from cassava ground to a couscous like texture, with a tangy flavor and chewy consistency it accompanies fish or chicken and can be enjoyed in the city's maquis, open air restaurants. photo William Farrington

A woman steaming attiéké (pronounced ah-check-ay), a local staple made from cassava ground to a couscous-like texture, with a tangy flavor and chewy consistency. It accompanies fish or chicken and can be enjoyed in the city’s maquis, open-air restaurants.

A lone boatmen on La lagune Ébrié, passing Plateau the city center and backdrop to the MASA festival held at the Palais de la Culture Abidjan during the MASA festival, sunday March 6th. photo William Farrington

A lone boatmen on La Lagune Ébrié, passing Plateau and the backdrop to the MASA festival held at the Palais de la Culture in Abidjan.

Women dancing in front of the stage at Le Pams, a popular night club in the Deux Plateau neighborhood, p[erforming is Bella Combo, a nine member group, all women. photo William Farrington

Women dancing in front of the stage at Le Pams, a popular nightclub in the Deux Plateau neighborhood. Performing is Bella Combo, a nine-member all-female, group.

The upscale Riviera neighborhood in Cocody, a suburb of Abidjan. photoWilliam Farrington

The upscale Riviera neighborhood in Cocody, a suburb of Abidjan.

A woman walking along Grand Bereby beach in western Cote d'Ivoire. photo William Farrington

A woman walking along Grand Bereby Beach in western Cote d’Ivoire.

a mosque in an Abidjan neighborhood. photo William Farrington

A mosque in an Abidjan neighborhood.

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