Camp Lemonnier Celebrates Art and Culture at Biannual Djiboutian Bazaar

Twenty-two Djiboutian artists and vendors brought their handmade art and regional wares to Camp Lemonnier on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023 for the installation's biannual bazaar.

Tables of colorful beads, framed art and handmade crafts lined 11 Degrees North. Normally, the building serves as Camp Lemonnier's all-hands recreation facility. On Saturday, it became a bridge between cultures.

"Service members aboard Camp Lemonnier look forward to our biannual bazaars," said U.S. Navy Capt. Suzanne Krauss, commanding officer of Camp Lemonnier. "We engage with our host nation and other African partners throughout the year during exercises and training events. But, the bazaar provides a greater opportunity to connect as one community. It's a venue for cultural exchange of art, ideas and conversation."

Shopping at the bazaar also offers service members a chance to share a piece of their deployments with their loved ones back home.

Djiboutian artist Badria Houssein Liban Al-Daeri grew up in a family of artists and remembers watching her mother painting and embroidering fabrics. "We were fascinated as children," Liban Al-Daeri said.

She went on to study fine art in Paris, before returning to Djibouti to begin her business in design and intaglio printmaking.

"This is my third bazaar," Badria said. "I keep coming back because it's a great opportunity to show my work to different people, and everyone is so kind."

Badria's table drew crowds on Saturday. Her framed prints depict lone acacia trees, lines of camels with their herders, whale sharks and grass nests built by Rüppell's weavers -- a small yellow bird that appears in Djibouti after the rain.

"Service members look for things that we can send home to our families to show the beautiful parts of Djibouti and this community," said Camp Lemonnier's Religious Programs Chief Joseph Penda Ntonga, who assisted with the bazaar. "I'm happy to be here to support our talented Djiboutian friends and neighbors in their businesses.

Camp Lemonnier has hosted bazaars for 16 years to connect U.S. service members with the local community. Kassa Eschete Messelech, a local merchant, has been to most of them.

She used to own a shop in town, and participated in every bazaar until she moved to South Africa. She returned to Djibouti this year, setting up her shop inside her home. Coming back to the bazaar provided another venue for her business.

"The bazaar has changed over the years, but it's always good," Kassa said. "The staff is very kind and they know how to help businesses."

The biannual bazaar is part of a series of community events that enrich the relationship between U.S. service members and Djiboutians. The installation also hosts an Iftar meal and an annual visit to the installation's historic Islamic Cemetery.

"The partnership between the United States and Djibouti began 21 years ago with Camp Lemonnier," said Capt. Suzanne Krauss. "Now, the U.S. and Djibouti work together to meet our shared regional security goals."

Saturday's bazaar raised 8.733.525 Djf ($49,203 U.S. dollars) for Djiboutian artists and vendors. The last three Camp Lemonnier bazaars have added 30.593.085 Djf ($172,000 U.S. dollars) to the local economy.

"The bazaar's positive impact on the local economy further underscores the positive, mutually beneficial relationship we share," Krauss said. "Our relationship enables us to provide 24/7 flight line operations force protection, port operations, lodging and facility management for our resident commands, including the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa."

CLDJ is an operational installation that enables U.S., allied, and partner nation forces to be where and when they are needed to ensure security in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.