Senegal certainly has its fair share of handicraft art: jewelry, fantastic locally dyed cloth to create a variety of textiles, and basket weaving. They also make musical instruments and utensils and other items out of wood and materials that are readily available. Women also style their hair in a number of ways, that frankly, is an artform.
Painting has also been an art people have enjoyed for a long time. A type of painting called “underglass painting” is quite popular among Senegalese artists. Pictures of daily life are painted directly on the underside of glass in reverse (I imagin) and then framed.
Sand painting is common in the rural areas. There are different kinds of sand painting throughout the world, but in Senegal, they typically use a kind of adhesive on a board and lay the sand down on it. Using different colors and grades of sand, artists can create different effects. These paintings tend to portray African scenery and ways of life or simply ethnic designs. I really want to try my hand at this. (But let’s add glitter to the sand!)
Today, art is very much a part of Senegal’s culture. One of the biggest celebrations of African art is the Dakar Biennal, otherwise known locally as Dak’Art. While it went through some program changes since its inception in 1989, it has more or less become a showcase and promotion of the best of contemporary African art.
I came across the works of a photographer named Omar Victor Diop. His photographs are stunning, and I’ve noticed he likes to capture an asynchrony of time and space as well as using a sharp contrast of colors and texture from what’s expected.
Before the French arrived and took over, much of the literature in Senegal was mainly relegated to poetry and stories that was passed down orally from one generation to another. During the 19th century, there really wasn’t that much written at all by Senegalese authors. However, authors didn’t really start producing novels and short stories until the early 20th century.
Today Senegalese literature certainly has carved its place in African literature and French-language literature. Although many authors from Senegal write in French, there are also many who publish works written in Wolof, Pulaar, and Arabic.
One of the most well-known Senegalese authors is Léopold Sédar Senghor. Most notably, he served as President of Senegal for its first 20 years. However, he was also a poet known for his defense of the French language and one of the founders of the Négritude movement of the 1930s. It basically pushed for a more Afrocentric identity in the African diaspora around the world.
Other prominent Senegalese authors include Mariama Bâ (known for her descriptions of polygamous society), Cheikh Hamidou Kane (known for his novel L’Aventure ambiguë), Fatou Diome (known for her novel Le Ventre de l’Atlantique), Cheikh Anta Diop (essayist), Aminata Sow Fall (known for her novel La Grève des Bàttu), Boubacar Boris Diop (novelist, screenwriter, journalist; known for his novel Murambi, le livre des ossements), Tidiane N’Diaye (anthropologist), Ousmane Sembène (writer and film director), and Birago Diop (poet, storyteller, mostly in folktales, active in Négritude).
Up next: music and dance