The Roads to Yamoussoukro

The thought of going to Yamoussoukro had been on my mind for the past few years. I had learned about the Basilica in Yamoussoukro: The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace (Basilique Notre Dame de la Paix). Yamoussoukro is in Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire), West Africa and NOT in Japan as one of my friends suggested when I mentioned it to him. It is actually the capital of Ivory Coast, a French speaking West African country.

This Basilica is said to be the largest church in the world! It was built by Felix Houphouet Boigny, the first president of Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire) and consecrated on 10 September 1990 by Pope John Paul II. It was supposedly controversial and perhaps unusual considering its cost, the motivation for building it and its location! I really wanted to see it.

It has variously been compared to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. I had spent a few days some years back exploring St. Peter’s. You can read about my experience of St. Peter’s at (https://www.octavephotographers.com/blog/2017/3/11/looking-up-at-the-vatican-mesmerized)

There were several reasons why I had failed to make the trip in the past. These included the ongoing political instability in the country and the fact that I did not and still don’t speak French. There was no airport in Yamoussoukro. You had to travel by road from Abidjan to Yamoussoukro; a distance of about 240 km.

When I finally made up my mind to do the trip this time, those fears were still there. The urge however was such that I could not resist! I had to go. LESSON 1, whatever you want to do, do it in your own good time as long as it is not a matter of life and death. As the saying goes ‘whenever you wake up is your own good morning!’

I wanted to be there during one of the Catholic festivals so as to have some spiritual feel to the visit. Easter was the choice! I started by making a hotel reservation on-line at the President Hotel in Yamoussoukro. Then I made a flight reservation into Abidjan. There were several airlines flying to Abidjan. I planned to arrange local transportation when I got there.

Abidjan airport was small but very efficient and clean. I was impressed with the Immigration and Custom services. They were orderly, polite and professional. The information kiosk at the airport was very helpful with local hotel and transportation arrangement. I was really grateful to the information kiosk staff for their help.

I made transportation arrangement at the hotel for my trip to Yamoussoukro for the following morning. The taxi driver (who spoke English) was a no-show in the morning but had arranged for a French speaking driver to take his place! One big mistake I made was not to confirm the taxi fare with the new driver before we left Abidjan. That was a really big mistake which I paid dearly for once we got to Yamoussoukro. LESSON 2, always confirm prior arrangement with new drivers!

Bus transportation was suggested but would not give me the flexibility to do photography of the country side. The trip took over 3 hours on a fantastic smooth dual carriage way.  I was impressed by the agriculturally scenic road; huge farms mainly rubber plantations, plantain/banana plantations, Gmelina tree plantations etc.

I arrived the President Hotel in Yamoussoukro thinking I had a reservation. I intended to stay 4 days for the Easter weekend. It was a shock that the online reservation was not valid. The hotel had no access to the online reservation! The hotel could provide accommodation for the first two days. It was a holiday weekend, the hotel was fully booked. I tried a few other hotels in town with the same result. Virtually all the good hotels in town were solidly booked. LESSON 3, always confirm your hotel reservations directly with the hotel!

I was not disappointed when I finally saw the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace! The environment was serene, really peaceful! The reception staff was very friendly. I paid the usual entrance fee and an additional fees for permission to take commercial photos.

My guide (Philip) was knowledgeable and helpful. He helped carry my tripod throughout his assignment. I realized that this was not part of his job; perhaps, that innate African culture of a younger person respecting and helping an older folk! I was grateful for his help!

I wrote a blog about my experience at the basilica which could be read at https://www.octavephotographers.com/blog/2018/5/2/the-basilica-of-our-lady-of-peace-basilique-notre-dame-de-la-paix-yamoussoukro

Yamoussoukro was well laid out. It seemed there was the new and the old parts of town. The roads were wide but unfortunately full of pot holes at the time of my visit. There were several lakes which I understand were man-made. The people were very hospitable. They smiled readily and were eager to help except for one taxi driver who took advantage of me! It was easy to get permission to take photographs of people and places.

There were other major attractions such as the palace of President Felix Houphouet Boigny, the coconut farm (I had my first natural coconut water drink there), the Crocodile Lake, the local cathedral and mosque, the Foundation for peace research and academic institutions.

The country was peaceful at the time of my visit. Actually, my inability to speak French did not significantly impact my overall enjoyment of the trip. Fortunately, a lot of Ivoirians spoke English and were eager to help. I met a lot of interesting people.  LESSON 4, our fears are just that, fears. If we rise above them and plan appropriately we will just be fine!

It was a worthwhile trip. I hope to be back at the Basilica sometime in the future. I feel I had not fully enriched myself of the spiritual aspect of the visit.

Enjoy some of my photos from Cote d’Ivoire.

Further information could be obtained here (I do not necessarily agree with some of the statements in these writings. I did my own fact findings during my visit);

1.      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_of_Our_Lady_of_Peace

2.      https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/yamoussoukro

4.       N’Guessan KA et al in Procedia Environmental Sciences 2011; 9:140-147

The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace (Basilique Notre Dame de la Paix) Yamoussoukro

The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire), is a Catholic minor Basilica noted to be the largest church in the world. This magnificent edifice was built by the first president of Ivory Coast, Felix Houphouet-Boigny. The Basilica is situated on a piece of land which used to be part of Felix Houphouet-Boigny’s coconut farm in his home town of Yamoussoukro. The remnant of the coconut farm remains visible around the Basilica. Construction was started in 1985 and was completed in 1989. It was consecrated in 1990.

The approach to the Basilica is about 1 kilometer long. It is paved with marble centrally with asphalted driveway on either side circling the Basilica. There is a massive garden on either side of the driveway supposedly patterned on the gardens of the palace of Versailles in France.

The design of the Basilica is that of a Christian Cross. The Basilica is made of marble. There are two semicircular colonnades, patterned on the Doric colonnades of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, in front of the Basilica. The two colonnades encircle a large dove image imprinted on the floor of the massive forecourt, perhaps signifying peace which is the central theme of the Basilica. The two colonnades lead to a large rectangular porch or façade which forms the lower portion of the cross. Columns are plentiful and are of non-uniform design. There is a terrace on top of the porch supported by huge columns; a favorite spot for visitors.

The nave of the Basilica is round and can seat 7000 worshipers. There is also room for additional 11000 standing worshipers resulting in a total capacity of 18,000. The nave is free standing under the dome. The dome is supported on columns. The stained glass atop the dome has a dove inscribed centrally.

There are several unique features of the Basilica among which are the curvilinear wooden pews made of hard African Iroko wood, individual air-condition vent in the pews, the African design incorporated into the canopy over the altar, extensive amount of stained glass windows and doors, unique stained glass images and or names of those involved in the concept, design and building of the Basilica, a wooden sculpture of the ‘Notre Dame De Tout le Monde’ and the tallest dome in the world if you consider the huge ornamental cross on top of the dome.

My guide told me an inspirational story about the ‘Notre Dame de Tout Le Monde’. This wooden sculpture of the Virgin Mary was conceived by an incarcerated Muslim criminal in Yamoussoukro prison. Apparently, this individual had a dream in which he had a conversation with the Virgin Mary. He reasoned that if the Virgin Mary could appear to him, a Muslim, She obviously belonged to the whole world and not to Christians alone. He decided to erect a sculpture to the Virgin Mary; Our Lady of the Whole World.

There are two identical large mansions on the back end of the Basilica; one serves as the residence for the Pope and the other serves as the rectory for the rector and administrators of the facility. A 250 bed children’s hospital is located on the east side of the facility.

I am particularly grateful for the opportunity to photograph this unique Basilica which I believe is a unique gift to Christendom and the African continent. I am also grateful for the opportunity to meet with the rector Rev. Fr. Frank, his assistant Irene and the seminarian, Peter. Attending the Good Friday Passion of Christ and service at the Basilica is the highpoint of my Christian life.

 My hope is that this Basilica will become a rallying point for Catholics on the African continent and a place of pilgrimage for many more people from around the world.

More information could be found at;

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_of_Our_Lady_of_Peace

www.cotedivoiretourisme.ci/.../612-la-basilique-notre-dame-de-la-paix

Great Platte River Road Archway Monument

Great Platte River Road Archway Monument Kearney Nebraska

Now simply known as The Archway, the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument is a museum and monument located over Interstate highway I-80 about 3 miles East of the city of Kearney, Nebraska. The billboard showing the direction to the monument still bears the original name!

It is located a leisurely three hour drive West of Omaha Nebraska on highway I-80. It now has its own exit, 275, just East of Kearney Nebraska but could also be reached through exit 272.

It is unlike any other monument or museum as this structure which is about 300 feet long spans the highway with road traffic running under it.

In a nutshell, it houses exhibits designed to showcase how the West was won! It does this within a two story log structure using murals, artifacts, visual and sound effects and self- guided audio tour of the trails, transcontinental railroad and highways as well as the trials and tribulations of the travelers as they headed west.  

There is surrounding greenery, flowers, shrubs and a small lake north of the entrance to the monument. On my prior visit a few years back, I saw some external exhibits of native Nebraskans’ artifacts, tepees and the travelers’ means of survival and effigy of their animals. Some of these exhibits were missing on my recent visit to the monument!   

A gift shop within the complex allows you to take home some souvenir featuring handmade native Nebraskan merchandise as well as patriotic, western and archway mementos to remember your visit to the monument.

Just West of the monument is the Nebraska Fireman museum and education center.

 

Further information is obtainable at archway.org

The moon and the sun; so different yet so similar

The sun has been around since the beginning of the solar system. The moon is a little younger than that. They are both unique in the sense that we cannot do without them. I remember reading somewhere that the dinosaurs became extinct partly because sunlight was obliterated and the vegetation the dinosaurs depended upon disappeared because of severe cooling of our planet! Imaging what will happen to us without sunlight: Imaging the total disappearance of the moon!

The moon and the sun are similar in the sense that they both give us light. The sun gives warm to hot sunlight while the moon gives soothing moonlight. The sun brightens our days and the moon our nights. They both rise in the east and set in the west!  They are both round in configuration. When there is a solar eclipse, and is total, they both look of the same size! We do know however, that the sun is the largest structure in the solar system! It is obviously not the same size as the moon.

The sun is the focus of our planet as the center of the solar system which formed over 4.6 billion years ago. The earth moves around (orbits) the sun while the moon, on the other hand, moves around (orbits) the earth. The sun is a fiery stuff. It is inhabitable and we may not be able to reach it. Remember Icarus! The moon, on the other hand, is a cool stuff. We have even been there, walked on it, took some rock samples.

Each time I lock my camera lens on the moon and the sun, I see the differences.

The sun is blinding, very unfriendly. The rays are scattered in different directions. There are obvious reflections on surfaces particularly water surfaces such as the lake or the ocean. Tracking my lens through tree branches or corn fields tend to exaggerate the sun’s rays. Several colored reflections could be seen. A huge halo or perhaps a rainbow is almost always present around the sun. Sun rise and sun set are so colorful with various shades of significantly bright fiery orange color lighting up the sky! Does it want to set us on fire? Even when it finally sets and you cannot see it, the colors on the sky line are just as majestic. A reminder that it is not done with us!

The moon, on the other hand, is friendly. It is cool. It always tells me all will be OK! Very rarely do you see the rays. Perhaps some mild halo around it but by and large the margins are clean. Seeing it on a cloudless day is a wonderful sight particularly when it is full. Sometimes I think it is moving! Light clouds are easily penetrated and you could see the moon just hiding behind the clouds. Sometime it comes with its own rainbow or halo surrounding it! Once it sets, it usually leaves no trace of its presence.

I have selected some photos to show the differences and similarities of the sun and the moon. Enjoy.

New butterflies

These days, everywhere I go I look for the most beautiful things, the butterflies! Whenever I see one I try to stalk it! Usually this leads me to the other ones and the most beautiful flowers. If a special butterfly garden exists in any town or city I visit, I always make the effort to visit. The beauty of these magnificent insects manifests in their colors. There appears to be some grace and skill in their flight; some appear erratic while some appear to have a pattern to their direction of flight. Some are slow while others show some energy and speed. Some keep coming back to the same spot and flower, perhaps this spot or flower offers something they want or need! Others stay briefly on a flower and move on appearing to be directionless. Yet, some make brief stops at different stations perhaps looking for something that they can not quite find. I observe some staying permanently on the spot; tired, sick, resigned to fate or have found a permanent abode? Some share feeding stations, each taking what it needs. In trying to escape the cold weather some alter their physical attributes to cope with the flight over thousands of miles to nest and survive the harsh conditions in a more comfortable environment only to come back when they think conditions are favorable in their old home! To me, all these behaviors serve as metaphor for life. Our life!

Heartland of America Park Omaha and Omaha Riverfront at Night

Downtown Omaha Nebraska and its juxtaposed Riverfront continue to undergo redevelopment. The downtown area boasts the tallest commercial buildings in Omaha along with hotels and the renowned "old market' with its fancy restaurants, library and galleries. The 'heart' of the riverfront is the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian bridge linking Omaha Nebraska with Council Bluffs Iowa spanning the Missouri river. In the neighborhood are the riverfront condominiums, the Lewis and Clark Landing, the CenturyLink conference center and the new stadium specially built for the Baseball College World Series. Adjacent to the riverfront is the Heartland of America Park with its beautiful landscape, lake and fountain. Several monuments are present in these areas. These gardens, parks and entertainment places provided some succor for me during my working years in the Universities in mid and downtown Omaha. I have recently discovered the night life and beauty of these territories that I have decided to show them off to you. I have selected many photos representing different aspects of these areas of Omaha. Enjoy.

2017 Rockbrook Village Arts Fair Omaha Nebraska September 9 and 10 2017

We are at the 2017 Rockbrook Village Art Fair 108th and W Center Rd. Omaha Nebraska

Saturday and Sunday September 9 and 10 2017.

The Rockbrook Village Arts Fair is an annual event and the 2017 Fair is the 46th anniversary of this event. Octave Photographers are delighted to be selected to participate for the first time! We have selected some of our enduring photographs to show at this Fair. We have used multimedia presentation for showcasing our work. We have chosen 31 of our enduring photos to present in framed excellent prints with UV resistant glass protection and customized frames, canvas, metal and board or presentation prints. We also have several items simply matted in various sizes. We are presenting our array of postcards and children’s books. We are also advertising our services;

Octave photographers: what we offer you

Exquisite landscape and nature photos from around the world

Multimedia presentation including digital, canvas, board, wood, metal and durable prints

Framing with the best materials

Postcards

Greeting cards

Wall, office, clinic and house decorations

Company photographic gift items

Photo books

Children’s books

Visit our website; octavephotographers.com

Contact us at octavephotographers @gmail.com

 

We will be posting some of our items on this site. Let us know if you like or want any of our items or our services.

More importantly, visit us at booth 33, Rockbrook Village Arts Fair Omaha NE on Saturday September 9 from 10 AM to 6 PM and on Sunday September 10 from 10 AM to 5 PM.

Our postcards for the show! You can order any or a combination of these cards. 10 for $8 plus postage. 

Our books for sale are listed below. These children's books are available at :

 1. http://www.blurb.com/b/8059831-akin-s-first-book-of-numbers

2.http://www.blurb.com/b/8054201-our-first-book-of-colors 

3. http://www.blurb.com/b/8053839-morayo-s-first-book-of-butteflies

4. http://www.blurb.com/b/7708482-ayomide-s-butterfly-friends

Here are some of our photos; framed, on metal, canvas or mounted on gator boards with their pricing. The framed photos have 99% UV glass protection. We mounted them on walls before shooting them. Most show reflections as expected in a real house situation. Some are still in their plastic wrappers producing glare as expected. We have tried as much as possible to label them right particularly the names of the butterflies. We don't pretend to be absolutely correct since we are not entomologists! 

We were really at the 2017 Rockbrook Village Arts Fair on the 9th and 10th of September 2017. Here below is our booth at the fair!

Fabotas College of Health Sciences and Technology Ado Ekiti Nigeria

Fabotas College of Health Sciences & Technology is located along Ikere Road Ado Ekiti, the state capital of Ekiti State in Nigeria.

Fabotas was founded by Chief Boboye Olanipekun about five years ago as the first private health care educational institution in Ekiti State Nigeria.  

‘Fabotas College of Science and Health Technology, Ado-Ekiti has been granted full accreditation by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) to run six courses. The courses are: Community Health Extension Work (CHEW), Junior Community Health Worker (J-CHEW), Dental Technician, Environmental Health Technology, Environmental Health Technician course, Environmental Health Assistant and Laboratory Technician’. 

Further information at HTTP://thenationonlineng.net/nbte-accredits-six-courses-at-ekiti-private-health-institution/

Ado Ekiti Butterflies

I have grown to like butterflies, such beautiful and delicate creatures. My initial exposure to butterflies was at the urging of my niece. I have since photographed butterflies at protected facilities. I have written two children’s books using some of those photos.

This collection represents my first attempt at photographing butterflies in the wild. The location was along Omisanjana road in Ado Ekiti Nigeria. It was a totally different experience. I understand most entomologists have to capture the butterflies to identify them. I am not an entomologist. All I want to do is to have fun photographing these beautiful creatures without harming them.

The butterflies I encountered on this shoot were totally different from the ones I had seen and photographed in North America! It was really hilarious running after these insects with the distinct barriers of the bush and vegetation between us! I have since learned that some of these are native to the tropics and West Africa specifically. The butterflies were more active in the mornings than any other times of the day. Chasing them was fun with their definitely unpredictable behavior in their natural habitat, flying around, resting on leaves and lawn, feeding on rotten mangoes, nectar  and pollen, or just enjoying the company of each other, hanging out! Some have damaged wings while most look beautiful with normal wings.

High definition photos and posters of these butterflies are available upon request.