On October 7th WARA teamed up with Seeding Labs to host an...
On Monday, July 28, the West African Research Center attracted a crowd of reporters and cameramen to cover a news conference focused on the new project entrusted to WARC and aimed at supporting young Senegalese leaders engaged in social entrepreneurship.
The Jeunesse, Entreprise et Transformation Sociale (JETS) project has already issued its call for applications with the aim of identifying 15 to 20 young Senegalese social entrepreneurs to participate in a one-week training program. This program will cover various strategies for further honing their leadership skills and developing their organizations, and consolidating their commitment to community welfare and advancement. After the training session, the recipients will go back to their respective sites and will benefit from a year-follow up program during which time they will be in regular contact with the trainers and facilitators of the project to consolidate the new skills acquired.
JETS is made possible thanks to a grant extended to the Senegalese government by the Japanese Funds-in-Trust managed by UNESCO. For the implementation of the project UNESCO commissioned the Baltimore-based International Youth Foundation (IYF) which, in its turn, selected WARC (among several other Dakar-based potential implementors) to implement the JETS initiative. WARC has worked closely with IYF; an IYF representative from Baltimore spent five days in Dakar working on the project and IYF policies with the WARC staff.
The UNESCO representative and the spokesperson for the Senegalese Ministry of Youth, Employment and Civic Engagement both made it clear to the media that they had unanimously agreed on the selection of WARC to implement the JETS project because of the excellent reputation of the Center both in Senegal and the West African region.
On the same day as the JETS press conference at WARC, we received the news that
the West African Research Center had been selected as one of the three Dakar-based institutions which will implement the US President’s four-year project for young African leaders. Thus far known as YALI (Young African Leaders’ Initiative), it has very recently been baptized as the Mandela Washington Fellowship Program for young African leaders.
Views from the Desert Edge
May 31, June 1 & 2, 2014
The third WARA-AIMS Saharan Crossroads conference brought together more than 50 scholars from around the Sahara and beyond for three days of interdisciplinary exchange. The conference, organized in collaboration with CEMA, CRASC, and the University of Ghardaia, was expertly organized by CEMA (Centre des Etudes Maghrébines en Algérie) and CRASC (Centre de Recherche en Anthropologie Sociale et Culturelle). CRASC, with its fully equipped amphitheatre, dining hall, and gardens was the perfect venue for the conference.
Presentations covered topics ranging from literature, religion, youth, architecture, hydrology, political science, and education to urbanization, manuscript collections, climate change, art, and music. This truly multi-disciplinary conference provided the rare opportunity for exchange across national, linguistic, and disciplinary borders.
An opening session featuring presentations by Ghislaine Lydon and Jean Sébastian Lecocq explored the theoretical constructs that continue to influence scholarship on the Sahara, and Africa more generally, and underlined the need for new epistemological paradigms. The racialization of the continent, its division into sub-Saharan Black Africa and a more ‘advanced’ European or white Africa to the north, the ‘civilizational bias’ that assumes one-way influence from ‘advanced’ to ‘less advanced’, la politique Berbere, la politique de race, notions of Islam Noire—all of these inherited paradigms continue to have enormous impact on our ability to see the continent and in particular, the Sahara and the communities in and surrounding it. The idea of the Sahara as a space dividing an imagined Black and White Africa is hard to shake–among scholars and even among populations on the continent. Our job as scholars, it was agreed, is to develop new ways of approaching the sub-region and its continental contexts.
In addition to the 42 different presentations, the conference included a workshop for doctoral students and a tour of the old city of Oran. It was an intense conference, and a very rich one. We look forward to making the papers available online by the end of July.
Special thanks go to Robert Parks and Karim Ouaras of CEMA for their superb organization of the conference.
Survival in Ho-Asogli Traditional Area
Ghanaian ethnomusicologist Dr. Misonu Amu, a visiting scholar at the New England Conservatory of Music this spring, was recently the guest of WARA and the African Studies Center. On Thursday, April 17, 2014 she gave a compelling talk entitled Ewe Women’s Musical Practices in the Volta region of Ghana: Survival in Ho-Asogli Traditional Area.
In her general introduction to Ewe musical practice, we learned that northern Ewe groups use a diatonic scale while southerners use the pentatonic—or five note—scale. We also learned about a range of instruments and some types of songs practiced by the Ewe. Dr. Amu underlined that music among the Ewe is interactive and involves singing, instruments, and dancing.
The core of her presentation was on women’s music. “Women,” she noted, “are custodians of tradition.” And music is among the most important of traditions in any culture. She underlined the key role of music in women’s lives and the many social functions it fills. One of these functions is expressing grief and dealing with death. This is the domain of the Aviha, literally, weeping songs. These traditional funereal songs, performed exclusively by women, with their often philosophical lyrics, pay tribute to the deceased and engage the community in the ritual of grieving. Dr. Amu noted that in Ho, the capital of the northern Ewe region, the Aviha is not permitted to be performed for Christians.
The audience was treated to demonstrations of some of the songs by Dr. Amu and enthusiastically took on their role in the call and response format.
The Tutsi Genocide: In Remembrance of April 1994 in Rwanda
The Senegalese novelist Boubacar Boris Diop and writer Felwine Sarr recently joined efforts to establish a new publishing house in Dakar, Les Editions Jimsaan. WARC joined together with Jimsaan to host film screenings and discussions in remembrance of the Rwandan Genocide, which took place 20 years ago. Boubacar Boris Diop, hailed for his committed writing and his thought-provoking perspectives, is the author of Murambi, Le Livre des Ossements (Murambi the Book of Bones), a heart-rending tale on the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda. Felwine Sarr, author of three published novels, is also dean of the faculty of economics and management at University Gaston Berger (Saint Louis, Senegal).
On April 22 and 23, Editions Jimsaan teamed up with the West African Research Center to screen two films, 7 Jours a Kigali and Sometimes in April. Screenings were followed by discussions with the audience. The Rwandan tragedy, according to members of the audience, should not only be sorely lamented but should be taken as a warning for other African nations and the rest of the world of what is possible when we are not vigilant.
The director of 7 Jours a Kigali, Mehdi Ba, attended the event and contributed to the discussions. Unfortunately, the director of Sometimes in April, Raoul Peck (most famous perhaps for his film, Lumumba), was unable to attend.
The two films and the ensuing discussions certainly contributed to a heightened understanding of the complexities of the Rwandan situation in 1994. Prior to colonization, Tutsis and Hutus lived as two distinct ethnic groups, in peace and harmony. They worshipped the same god and were culturally very close until the Belgian colonial forces stepped in, ushering in a different religion and fanning the flames of division and hostility between the two groups. This state of affairs culminated in the tragic events of April 1994, fueled by the now-infamous community radio station, Radio Mille Collines, and some European powers.
The two films attracted a crowd of 59 people, which, over two days, completely filled the new WARC conference room.
A Tribute to John Coltrane
Jazz is a world heritage, as indicated by these words from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History,
Jazz: spontaneous, never ordinary, completely genuine, born in America, enjoyed worldwide.
This year, the West African Research Center (WARC) opened its doors to the public and local event organizers for a celebration of April as Jazz Appreciation Month. From April 24 to April 30, event organizers such as Buur Dali Productions held a number of public events throughout Dakar. These included lectures and live musical performances with the participation of talented local and foreign artists and musical groups.
One of the high watermarks of these celebrations was the presentation made by Mrs. Freddy Williams Evans on her celebrated book: Congo Square, African Roots in New Orleans (University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, 2011). The book is an impressive documentation of the origins of black music in America and its flourishing in New Orleans, particularly in the section of the city called Congo Square. From the musical instruments used to the various rhythms produced by players, the author aptly demonstrates that Africa has always been the source and fount of black musical expression in America.
The celebrations also included a showcase performance featuring several talented jazz players from Senegal and abroad, hosted by the West African Research Center on Saturday evening, April 26.
Films and a Jazz Session
The film Lincoln, was the first film in the West African Research Center’s Black History Month program. Screened on Friday February 7th, it attracted quite a crowd. Indeed, President Abraham Lincoln is one of the great figures of American history and those who attended the showing made insightful contributions and raised seminal questions during the discussions that followed the screening.
The series will also include a screening of Invictus, which will be an opportunity to discuss the life and career of the African giant, Nelson Mandela.
A special session will be dedicated to children with the showing of two documentaries: one African and the other African American.
Finally, pride of place will be made for African American music with the showing and discussion of Oxygen for the Ears, a film on jazz. On the occasion, live jazz music will be performed by a group of Senegalese jazz aficionados in the gardens of the West African Research Center.
WARA/AiB Forum on Civil Unrest in Chad
On Tuesday February 11, WARA collaborated with Africans in Boston (AiB) to host a program on Chad at Boston University’s African Studies Center. AiB president Voury Ignegongba, a Chadian himself, discussed the current political and economic situation in the landlocked African nation of Chad, explaining how conflicts in Libya, Sudan, and the Central African Republic have led to an increasingly unstable situation in an already struggling nation.
Mr. Ignegongba went through the post-colonial history of Chad, starting with its independence from France in 1960. Over the years, a series of coup d’etats led by military leaders have led to a general lack of confidence in the government.
Moreover, Chad is located at the center of a region wracked by conflicts. According to Ignegongba, the many conflicts in the region have made it impossible for Chad to advance in the 50 plus years since its independence. Mr. Ignegongba provided an overview of regional history and U.S. involvement in the region during the cold war, paying particular attention to the situation in Libya, leading up to the US intervention there in 2011. He briefly went through the history of the Central African Republic and the impact that these regional conflicts have had on Chad.
A son of a diplomat, Ignegongba was born in N’Djamena, Chad and grew up in Central and Western Africa (Cameroon, Mauritania, Niger, Mali) where he attended local international French schools. From an early age, he was exposed to a broad range of countries and culture including France, the United States, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria. Ignegongba holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from McGill University in 2000. Since then he has worked in Japan and currently resides in Boston, where he serves as the president of Africans in Boston, a vibrant organization that brings together African residents in the area.
Trois Romanciers Sénégalais devant l’Histoire: Cheikh Hamidou Kane, Abdoulaye Elimane Kane, Boubacar Boris Diop
by Birahim Thioune
This book, which focuses on three Senegalese writers whose works combine philosophy and literature, can be viewed, according to Professor Fallou Mbow, who presented the author and expertly commented on the book, as a summary literary history of Senegalese letters. At the same time, each of the authors under examination in Professor Thioune’s book presents a discourse opening vistas on sustainable development as well as the cultural, political and economic relations of Africa with the rest of the world.
Professor Thioune’s essay evinces many qualities which were noted by the panelists as well as the members of the audience. According to the many observers who took the floor, the book is well-written while offering a pedagogical slant which will help many readers better understand the messages of Cheikh Hamidou Kane, Abdoulaye Elimane Kane and Boubacar Boris Diop who now feature as three household names in Senegalese and African letters.
The event was attended by 64 people including writers, members of the civil society, scholars and students.
Revisiting the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
by Jennifer J. Yanco
(Indiana University Press, 2014)
On December 11, Jennifer Yanco made a presentation on her forthcoming book at the West African Research Center. The book will be released by Indiana University Press in early January.
Introducing the writer, the chair of the event, Dr Ousmane Sene, director of the West African Research Center and professor of American literature and civilization at University Cheikh Anta Diop, commented on Dr. Yanco’s longstanding commitment to social justice through her anti-racism work and community engagement.
Dr. Yanco’s book addresses the unfortunate amnesia concerning Dr. King’s work. The purpose of the book, according to Dr. Yanco, is to remind readers that Dr. King was in fact a radical truth teller and outspoken critic of the policies of his own country. He warned us all against what he termed the ‘giant triplets’ of militarism, materialism,
and racism and their corrosive effects on the body politic.
Through the discussions which ensued many speakers concurred with the author and congratulated her for drawing attention to these key issues which, most of the time, are left out of the record.
Indeed, while in the popular memory of Dr. King the emphasis is frequently laid on the struggle for civil rights and selected passages from his famous speech “I have A Dream….”, the three –isms—Militarism, Materialism, and Racism– about which he spoke and wrote extensively are more often than not completely absent.
Dr Yanco’s approach in her book was said to be so inspiring that a professor present in the room called the attention of his graduate students to at least five new research topics inspired by the author’s work.
The exchanges between the writer and the audience were lively and substantial enough to consider the book as a major contribution to further and better understanding Dr King’s vision.
The 41 people who attended the event were invited to a friendly reception offered by WARC in honor of the WARA Director and writer of the book, Dr Jennifer Yanco who was also awarded a certificate of appreciation by the staff of the West African Research Center.
To order the book, click here.
WARA would like to congratulate DAART Fellow Adidjangnimou Evariste Aohoui of Programme Assainissement- Recyclage Ordures (PARO) in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire. Mr Aohoui and his organization PARO have been chosen from among hundreds of submissions as a winner for innovation and creativity.
Forum Africa 2013 has awarded PARO for their unique and original contribution to sustainable development on the continent. Information on his organization will be publicized among the Forum Africa 2013 participants, companies, NGOs and donors. PARO will also participate in the network Africa of Forum for Innovation, which allows them access to technical and financial instruments for entrepreneurship and innovation on the continent.
PARO is an organization that works in the environmental field, more specifically in recycling in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire. They teach about pollution and recycling. They employ youth to clean up their communities and to recycle; in turn the youth develop a sense of investment in the community and take ownership of the work by keeping their neighborhoods clean. They believe that this is only the beginning, that this investment will manifests itself in mobilizing youth around other issues in their neighborhoods. They hope to grow their organization to disseminate their message more effectively, to allow their community to have environmentally safe products, and to teach community awareness.
The Dakar American Applied Research Training (DAART) program brought together eleven young leaders throughout West Africa for two months in 2012 for capacity building training and workshops. Selected from some one hundred applicants, the young leaders are engaged in the realization of a range of projects aimed at improving their communities. During their two-month training program, they received hands-on workshops on developing and using social media for change; financial management; proposal writing and development; technology tools; gender analysis; and evaluation theories and techniques. The eleven DAART fellows hail from Senegal (5), Togo (1), Cape Verde (1), Burkina Faso (1), Niger (2), and Guinea (1).
WARA congratulates Mr. Auhoui and PARO for their continued energy and effort towards a new direction for the continent of Africa.