Sunday, April 14, 2013

Conakry: Hipster Paradise

The other day I was talking to my sister about food trucks, which have recently started popping up around town here in Conakry. I haven't tried one yet, but I'm pretty sure they're not selling designer cupcakes or upscale mac'n'cheese. I made a joke about Conakry turning hipster soon, but after further reflection it occurred to me that Conakry actually already has plenty of hipsters' favorite things:
  • Farmers' Markets - Everyone, and I do mean everyone, gets their produce at the farmers' market. Except for a very few grocery stores selling overpriced wilted imported arugula to expats, there's really no other choice. Guinea has no cold chain and farmers can't afford fertilizer, so you can be sure it's all organic and locally-sourced!
  • Thrift Stores - No one loves a great bargain on secondhand clothes like Guineans. People buy used clothes in 100-pound bales to bring to Guinea and feed the insatiable demand. And the prices here are way better than at the Goodwill in Williamsburg, by the way. 
  • Pre-Gentrified Neighborhoods - Your tiny shared apartment in a converted factory in a rough part of New York is SO mainstream. Conakry hipsters live in handcrafted shacks made of scrap aluminum and plastic sheeting with no electricity or running water. Edgy.
  • Not Having a Television - You're so above and beyond mass-market popular culture that you don't even own a TV. You're in good company in Conakry, where no one else has a TV either because no one can afford one. 
  • Obscure Bands - Most of the music you'll hear in Conakry will never be found on the Top 40 hitlist. It's so niche it's not even on Pitchfork. I could give you some names, but you've probably never heard of them.
  • Urban Farming - Raising chickens is not enough to set you apart anymore. To really make your mark as an urban farmer you also need ducks, goats, sheep, and maybe a cow or two. Conakry will show you how it's done.
  • Vintage - So you've got an old turntable or a pillbox hat. How about a 1950's farm truck? A foot-pedal sewing machine? These items and many more can be found in Conakry, not as museum pieces but as integral parts of daily life, because people here use things until they can't be used anymore. Besides, people just don't make things like they used to. Now they make things that require electricity, which is in short supply around here.
Sure, there are a couple of hipster touchstones that haven't quite caught on in Conakry yet - oversized plastic frame glasses, Instagram, fixed-gear bikes (it would help if the roads were paved), mustaches, irony. Minor details. Look out Portland, Conakry is gunning for you!

3 comments:

  1. Sorry I didn't get to say goodbye properly - you disappeared! But I am in for Turkey Day as long as I can get leave.

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  2. The 90's are alive in Conakry?

    Don't speak up too much or you'll lose whatever hardship pay you guys get.

    ReplyDelete