Culture / Religion
There exists a great linguistic diversities of the languages in Senegal. The Constitution of 2001 recognized French as the official language and six other languages as national languages, the wolof: language spoken by 90 percent of Senegalese even those pertaining to other ethnic groups, the sérère, the Fulani, the mandingue, the soninké and the diola. Five other vernacular languages were promoted shortly after: the hassaniyya, the balanta, the mancagne, the noon and the manjago; followed by three other languages: the ménik, the oniyan and the saafi-saafi; other additions of codified languages are on bord. About 21 indexed languages out of 27 that fits in as national languages in Senegal.
Senegalese literature was known a long time ago in the world especially through Léopold Sédar Senghor, he was a poet and statesman at the same time, a defender of black culture and an important figure in the Francophonie. Amongst other classical authors, we have the novelists Cheikh Hamidou Kane, Birago Diop, Boubacar Boris Diop, but also Ousmane Sembène who carried to the screen some of his own novels. Beside them, women are particularly active, mostly incisive. In 1980, Mariama Bâ described with a great sensitivity the polygamous society in “a long letter”. Aminata Sow Fall, in “the Strike of the beaten” (1986), which illustrated that the lower classes were not deprived of resources. In 1996, the poet Alioune Badara Coulibaly, very familiar to the poet Léopold Sédar Senghor, publishes “Happy birthday, Sédar”, paying homage to the defender of the black culture for his 90th birthday. This poet is in his fifth poetry book of which the last is titled “Sunrays in Saint-Louis” (2009), in 1997, the novelist Fama Diagne Sene obtained the Grand Prix of literature in Senegal with her novel “the song of darkness”. More recently, Fatou Diome meets success with “the Belly of the Atlantic” (2004), a novel which puts into scene, often with humour, dreams of escape of young Senegalese.
Tradition and modernism, marks the architecture of Senegal. The traditional habitat, sober and functional but more ephemeral, uses local materials (stone, clay, wood, straw), like the Fulani huts or the impluvium casamançais huts. The colonial period left traces as in Gorée or Saint-Louis, and these sites are today on the list of the world heritage of UNESCO. Today, the architect Pierre Goudiaby Atepa conceived several contemporary achievements, such as Door of the Third millennium in Dakar. It is good to note new constructions such as the tunnel of the western cornice and the monument of the African Rebirth, inaugurated in 2010. The highway is under construction.
Visual arts were boosted during the time when the president poet L.S. Senghor was in power through through state patronage.Thereafter, its successors had difficulties in continuing this policy because of the economic crisis. Various private initiatives were developed in order to support the artists. These arts works are being celebrated today through the help of the sculptor Ousmane Sow of international repute.
The series of stamps emitted with the heading “Elegance Senegalese” celebrates these beautiful and seducing women who already tries to impress her former observers and they inspire the poets: stately bearing Fulani women, linguères of royal blood, fortunate signares of Senegal or Gorée. Even with modest budgets, the concern of appearance seldom loses its rights in Senegal: boubous, hair styles and jewelries selected carefully and are frequently renewed. Either they put on traditional wear or the costume, the men are also careful in their choice of dressing. In contrast, the informal dressing code of some tourists can be discouraging sometimes.
In extending old activities such as weaving and dyeing, the mode industry sprang up quite naturally over the nation, with some key figures such as Collé Ardo Sow, Claire Kane and especially Oumou Sy, at the same time designer, decorator and business woman internationally.
The Senegalese cinema is one of oldest in Africa. It’s mostly known representatives are the scenario writers Ousmane Sembène — also a novelist — and Djibril Diop Mambéty, of which it is necessary to add Tidiane Aw, or Safi Faye, film producer of documentaries. These productions are appreciated often abroad than in Senegal where many halls are closed, competed with the more flourishing market of the video. It is noted that many films of various origins were shot here in this country with favorable climate and the natural photogenic landscapes.
The great names of the Senegalese contemporary music are: Youssou Ndour, composer-songwriter, musician and interpreter of international repute. Ashraff 30, reggae singer, author and composer, Baba Maal is an author and composer, who has produced himself internationally, we also have Ismael Lô composer-songwriter and an interpreter; Omar Pène composer-songwriter and an interpreter and Coumba Gawlo Seck, composer-songwriter.
Djembe, sabar, kora, xalam, armpit drum and balaphon are part of the traditional instruments still very popular. Among the percussion instruments, the sabar and the mbalax indicates at the same time the musical instruments, a style of music and a dance. These are typical sounds of the Senegalese culture. Seck Thione who is a song writer and performer, an interpreter of mbalax has succeeded in adapting the traditional and the modern: he is appreciated by fans of all ages in Senegal. Pape Diouf and Ndongo Lô (deceased on January 16th, 2005), Ismael Lô (called Senegalese Bob Dylan) are also artists of the mbalax universe. Cheikh Lô, composer-songwriter, musician and interpreter knows how to combine mbalax and reggaes influences. It is good to note here that, Viviane Ndour, best Senegalese artist 2006 and queen of the mbalax, one of the rare female artists that have arrived some where. The string instruments such as kora is known all over West Africa and are now known outside the continent through jazz groups or world music.
In “a grain of life and hope”, the novelist Aminata Sow Fall puts into scene the essential place occupied by the Senegalese culinary in the culture and the daily life of the country. The “Teranga”, this sense of hospitality very dear in the hearts of the Senegalese, is often expressed around a bowl of dish joining the family together and friends. Relatively known abroad apart from the communities resulting from immigration and some restaurants in big cities, the Senegalese culinary drew the attention of the media with the publication of the book of Youssou Ndour, “my mother kitchen”, a vibrating homage to family values as with the revealed dishes and lengthily simmered.
This culinary presents some similarities with those of the countries of West Africa, but it accommodated other influences, such as of North Africa, of Lebanon, of France or Portugal. It makes a broad use of fish and cereals(rice and millet) in the national dishes, like the thiéboudienne, the yassa of chicken, thiéré, maffé, soup kandia or this more sophisticated cooking from Saint Louis known as the stuffed mule-vegetable. In a country mainly Moslems, the tea, the herbal tea of kinkeliba and the bissap overrides alcohol, but the local beers – Flag or Gazelle – and the palm wine in Casamance have also their drinkers.
Religions and beliefs
There exist several religions and beliefs in Senegal. The Senegalese population is mainly Moslem (approximately 95 percent). This Islam is primarily of Sufi tradition and is known for its tolerance and its opening to otherness. The Islamization of the country dates from the 11th century (see the history of Senegal), time of which the Almoravides conquered the North of Senegal. The two principal Moslems brotherhoods dominant are the Tidjaniyya and Mouridiyya. The appearance of Christianity is much more recent. Today, theChristians (catholic, evangelists, Protestants) represent 4 percent of the population of Senegal. Finally, animism 1 percent, with its rites and its beliefs, is always present and is practiced mainly in the south-east of the country. Elsewhere it often cohabits with the other religions. Senegal is a model as it regards religious peaceful cohabitation. During various religious holidays, the Senegalese have it as a practice to offer meals to their neighbors who practice other religion.