Category: News from West Africa
A collaboration between WARA/WARC, the National Museum of African American History & Culture, and Universite Cheikh Anta Diop
A Symposium on Race, Racism and the Construction of Black Modernities was held in Dakar on February 7-12, 2016. For this event, WARC/WARA partnered with the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and the IFAN institution at Cheikh Anta Diop University (UCAD), Dakar. This was yet another illustration of WARA/WARC’s role as a bridge for the promotion of academic and cultural cooperation between West African and US learning and cultural institutions.
Over three days and in three different venues (WARC, UCAD and IFAN), in-depth presentations were made and insightful discussions conducted over various topics centering on race, race relations and the advancement of black communities.
Eminent scholars from the US and West Africa attended the learned gathering and gave substantial food for thought to the dozens of students who filled the various conference rooms over three consecutive days. Featured speaker was Professor Michael Blakey (Anthropology),of William and Mary College, Director of the Institute for Historical Biology. Other international scholars participating included Alain Froment, Jemima Pierre, Ibrahima Thiaw, Deborah Mack, Dean Rehberger, Michael Green, and Francois Richard. The opening ceremony recorded opening statements by representatives of the NMAAHC, WARC, UCAD, IFAN as well as the US Embassy in Dakar and was attended by students, scholars from two US Universities and Cheikh Anta Diop University.
KOMIVI DOSSA is a Beninois Ph.D candidate at UCAD working on sesame, which plays an important part in the lives of rural people in West Africa. His research is on food security, particularly on the physiological and enzymatic mechanisms of drought resistance in sesame. (See more).
KEITA IBRAHIM is a Ph.D candidate in Microbian and Cellular Biotechnology at the University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. He is working on indigenous yeasts and metabolites generated by the so-called “Rabile” which is the dregs of the local beer named “Dolo”. (See more).
KOFFI YAO BERNARD is a Ph.D candidate in Agroecology from Cote d’Ivoire. Using ecological intensification, he is conducting his research on the microbian community of the soils fertilized by animal manures (See more).
IDOWU OMOWUMI OMODUNNI is a Nigerian Ph.D candidate at Ekiti State University in Nigeria. Her research project is entitled: Women, Environment Degradation and Food Security: the case of Oloibiri Community of Bayelsa State, Nigeria. (See more).
WARA 2015 travel grantee, David Obada was named Research Training Fellow for Developing Country Scientists (RTF-DCS) at the CSIR-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur, Nehru-Marg, India. He will be under the guidance of Dr Nitin K Labhsetwar during the six month fellowship period. He will be studying how low cost catalyst supported on ceramic supports diesel emission control. David is also pursuing a Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering at Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria.
“Charlie Hebdo in Niger: Between AQIM and Boko Haram” was the title of this year’s official WARA panel at the African Studies Association (ASA) annual meeting in San Diego, California. Panelists examined the various reactions of Nigeriens in the wake of President Mahamadou Issoufou’s expression of solidarity with those speaking out against the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. Each explored the complex and changing context from a different disciplinary point of view, contributing to the rich and nuanced presentations.
Panelists included Scott Youngstedt, WARA Immediate past president (Saginaw Valley State University); Barbara Cooper (Rutgers University); Hilary Hungerford (South Dakota State University); Amanda Gilvin (Mount Holyoke College), Yahaya Ibrahim (University of Florida) and Abdoulaye Sounaye Independent scholar) .
The South African Embassy in Dakar selected the premises of the West African Research Center (WARC) to host the exhibit celebrating their National Heritage Day on October 14, 2015.
The exhibit features paintings and drawings made by Senegalese artists to celebrate the man who has become as a global icon, Madiba, or Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
For the occasion, the South African diplomatic representation in the Senegalese capital invited many ambassadors, particularly those representing African nations in Dakar and officials from the Senegalese government.
After inviting the Director of WARC to welcome the distinguished guests, the South African Ambassador, His Excellency A. M. Shilubane, thanked the Center for hosting the event and also for making efforts to promote the cultural and intellectual visibility of other African countries, particularly South Africa, in Dakar. Ambassador Shilubane explained to the audience the reason for National Heritage Day, while promising to take all the appropriate initiatives to have South African artists (and especially traditional musicians and dancers) visit and perform in Dakar.
The speeches were followed by a guided visit of the exhibit with commentaries and explanations provided by the artists themselves. The event, enlivened with live music in the WARC gardens, was attended by 100 people.
The JETS project (Jeunesse, Entreprise et Transformation Sociale/Youth, Entrepreneurship and Social
Transformation) is the result of a very productive and stimulating collaboration between a US international NGO established in Baltimore, Maryland; the International Youth Foundation (IYF); and the West African Research Center. The funds needed to implement the project were initially entrusted to UNESCO-Dakar by the Japanese Fund-in-Trust for the benefit of the Senegalese Ministry of Youth. When IYF was selected by UNESCO for implementation, they turned to a number of local organisations and ultimately selected WARC as their partner.
After a week’s training at WARC in December 2014, the 16 JETS fellows went back to their respective sites in various parts of Senegal. The next phase, consisting of long-distance training and monitoring, took place from December-January to June-July.
During this monitoring phase, the academic coordinator identifed by WARC to conduct the training activities kept in regular contact with the fellows and was thus able to measure their progress. Progress was assessed in the various modules of the training program including leadership, management, computer skills, civic engagement, and networking
The July 22 event at WARC provided the JETS fellows the opportunity to inform each other and the training staff about progress made in their entrepreneurial activities and to reinforce their networking skills and opportunities.
T he various resource persons and personalities who attended the event were very impressed by the young fellows’ articulate presentations, their clarity of purpose, and the appropriateness of their businesses and projects. Their civic awareness and engagement as well as their social commitment were also praised by the audience.
As a result of the remarkable quality of the meeting, it was moved that the JETS fellows be involved in the future establishment of a local or panAfrican network for the promotion of social transformation in African societies. The Director of WARC has already started contacting potential members of such a network and planning for a preparatory meeting.
The fellows were encouraged to join organisations like the American Chamber of Commerce in Dakar. This would allow them to be part of a forum where they could promote their ventures for potential funding and partnerships. They were also urged to set up a website for exchange of ideas among themselves and with other youths in Senegal and the rest of the continent.
The event, which was attended by at least 20 people, was wrapped up with a friendly reception in the WARC gardens.
“Valorizing African Cultural Heritage and Thought in the 21st Century”
(WARC, Dakar, July 3-4, 2015)
A group of former students of University Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) and former associates of the West African Research Center (WARC), who are now all academics in a number of US universities, are currently in Dakar at WARC implementing a very original and productive study abroad program which teams up local and US students to conduct its learning and experiential activities. The exercise is being conducted under the new umbrella organization they have created, the Dakar Institute for African Studies (DIAS).
The symposium, “Valorizing African Cultural Heritage and Thought in the 21st Century,” was opened by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences at UCAD and the Director of WARC. One of the afternoon panels will be chaired by the Vice-President of UCAD.
The theme of the symposium has drawn a huge crowd of participants — too many for the WARC conference room to accommodate! The large number of participants included graduate and PhD students from Senegalese universities, and UCAD in particular, and their counterparts from overseas. The US students enrolled in the study abroad program of the Dakar Institute for African Studies are also attending.
International participants hail from the USA, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and France. Along with their Senegalese counterparts, there were more than 100 people—standing room only—in the WARC conference room.
A documentary by Samba Gadjigo and Jason Silverman
A few years ago, Professor Samba Gadjigo came to Dakar and spent
long days and nights with filmmaker Jason Silverman and other technicians. They used the facilities as WARC to work on their now completed project, a documentary film on the father of African cinema, Ousmane Sembene. Their film, Sembene!, was shown for the first time in sub-Saharan Africa on Friday June 19 in the WARC conference center.
The documentary simply but significantly titled Sembene! Is surely the most complete and informative film chronicling the professional and personal life of Sembene Ousmane—a writer and filmmaker but also an inhibited, complex, iconoclastic, revolutionary and trail-blazing personality. The exclamation mark going with the title translates all the baffling and confusing steps and stages Gadjigo had to go through before finally securing an enduring and deep relationship with the old man he ended up calling Tonton (Uncle).
The film is certainly a major and contribution to scholarship in African film and filmmaking. The audience of 43 people who attended the screening included filmmakers, actors, film critics, men and women in the various sectors of arts and culture, reporters, academics, researchers, students, and friends of both Sembene and Gadjigo.
This panel discussion was held at WARC on Wednesday, May 20th, 2015. It featured the outstanding specialist on Muslim affairs, Professor Abdou Aziz Kébé (Department of Arabic, University Cheikh Anta Diop) and a retired general and ambassador, Mamadou Mansour Seck, one of the founding fathers of the Senegalese army who, after retiring from the military, represented Senegal in Washington, DC as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.
Professor Kébé started by reminding his audience of the true meaning of the word Jihad in Islam. This meaning is especially resonant for most of the great Islamic leaders in West Africa and in Senegal in particular. As Professor Kébé noted, if Jihad means fight, this should first be construed as a moral and spiritual fight with oneself in one’s permanent quest for perfection, purity and salvation.
According to Professor Kébé, what is presently occurring throughout the world in the guise of a religious crusade is more a political initiative than anything else, and one that tends to divide the world into believers and miscreants, planting a Manichean wedge within and between communities.
When General Seck took the floor, it was to explain to theaudience the complexity of the situation from a military perspective. According to him, the war on Jihadism cannot be waged as a conventional one. This because the enemy is never easily identifiable since today’s civilian can overnight turn into a disguised faith fighter and create havoc where least expected.
Following the two presentations, the audience of 37 people engaged in a lively exchange with the panelists and with each other.
This year’s Black History Month at the West African Research Center (WARC) in Dakar was particularly eventful. A number of film screenings and discussions were held at WARC during the month. These were followed later in the month by three events that were made possible by a very
fruitful collaboration between WARC, the Senegalese American Studies Association (SASA), the US embassy in Dakar, the Dakar-Gorée Jazz Festival, and local representatives of the celebrated pan-African publishing house Présence Africaine.
In cooperation with Présence Africaine, WARC hosted the presentation and dedication of the French translation of the autobiography of the great Jazz piano player Randy Weston, entitled Randy Weston, African Rhythms (by William Jenkins and Randy Weston). Held at WARC on February 25th, the event was a great success. According to the world-famous jazzman whose work has been presented and discussed in many parts of the world, this event held at WARC was very special to him.
On Friday, February 27th, the new US ambassador to Senegal, His Excellency Mr. James Zumwalt, and the Director of WARC chaired a presentation by Sheldon Austin, a lecturer invited by the Public Affairs Office at the embassy. Dr. Sheldon Austin’s presentation was entitled “Civil Rights Movements and Participation in the Political Process.” The focus was on the American experience with the election of President Obama and also explored various experiences identified in West Africa in countries such as Senegal and Burkina Faso.
On this occasion, the Ambassador remarked on the excellent relations with WARC and praised the Center as a vibrant venue for scholarship, on West Africa and the U.S, and a dynamic forum for the advancement of democracy, equal opportunity, dialogue and peace in the West African sub-region. In front of the many members of SASA who attended, he marveled at the Senegalese scholars and students’ in-depth knowledge of political and socio-cultural issues in the US.