The South African Embassy in Dakar selected the premises of the West...
Category: News from WARC
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.
After several weeks of recess because of the Center’s annual leave in August, the book club, “We Read for You” of the West African Research Center is back to business. This new series, inaugurated in June 2015, brings together members of the community to discuss classic works as well as newly minted ones. WARC intends to keep the momentum up by featuring at least one event every month.
The fall 2015 series of “We Read for You” was kicked off on October 15th with the presentation of a novel which has now become a world classic: The Beggars’ Strike (La Greve des Bàttu), by Senegalese author, Aminata Sow-Fall.
The event was attended by many people including the author herself. In her opening remarks, Sow-Fall warmly commended WARC for its contributions to the cultural and intellectual vibrancy of Dakar and for its commitment to furthering academic research, collaborative efforts, and exchanges throughout West Africa and beyond.
The presenter of the day, Miss Borso Tall, a doctoral student at University Cheikh Anta Diop stressed the topicality of issues raised in the novel and dwelt on its social and political implications. The audience of 30 people reacted and enlivened the exchanges with seminal contributions and questions.
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.
Un regard africain sur le siècle des ruptures
by Landing Savané
(Éditions Presses Panafricaines, Avril 2015)
On Saturday afternoon, June 6, the West African Research Center found it challenging to
accommodate the crowd that flocked in to attend the presentation of the book written by one of the most distinguished and honorable political leaders in Senegal, Mr. Landing Savané, Secretary General of And Jef, a left-leaning political party.
Landing Savané, a household name in Senegal, Africa and in left-leaning circles around the world, engaged in politics very early and was a major actor in the events which rocked Senegal in May 1968. A statistician by training, Landing Savané was among the specialists who masterminded the major population censuses in Senegal in an effort to adjust national economic plans and projects to the demographics of this West African nation.
Now that he has almost retired from the political scene, he thought it profitable to commit to paper ideas garnered from his long experience as an opposition leader and later, when Abdoulaye Wade came to power, a cabinet member.
The book and its author were introduced by former Senegalese minister of finance and the economy, Mr Pape Ousmane Sakho, who was instrumental in designing the Senegalese structural adjustment plan (known by all as “Le Plan Sakho-Loum” under President Abdou Diouf).
According to M. Sakho, Africa holds the future of the world not because of her mineral and other still-untapped resources, but because Africa has the needs which industry and other economic activities exist cater to. Africa is the huge market of tomorrow and commodity producers will have to provide for her needs in the future for their survival.
This focus on the human factor and not on the mineral factor was echoed by the other two panelists, Prof Amadou Guiro, Rector of the Sine Saloum University (to open in 2016), Dr Abdourahmane Ngaidé (Department of History, UCAD) and by the author himself who, in his final remarks, urged African youth to believe in the future of their continent and invest all their energies and capabilities in the actualisation of a rosy future for the continent.
The event, which was extensively covered by local and international media, attracted a crowd of nearly 150 people.
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.
by Mountaga Diagne
Young political scientists at WARA should be familiar with the name of this Senegalese researcher who completed his PhD in Canada, all the while acknowledging his academic indebtedness to the works of scholars such as Leo Villalon, Catherine Boone, and Penda Mbow—to name just a few.
On March 13, 2015 at WARC, Professor Abdou Salam Fall of IFAN and Dr. Cheikh Guèye of Enda presented Dr. Diagne’s new book, Pouvoir Politique et Espace Religieux au Senegal. According to them both, Dr Diagne’s book is a major contribution in the field of political science in Africa. They noted that Dr. Diagne’s work was a bold departure from the usual research tracks in that it acknowledges the role of other key players beyond the state—players likely to account for political governance on the continent and, particularly, in a country like Senegal. In Senegal, religion, and Islam in particular, has played a historic role for liberation and the construction of a new identity to stand up to the onslaughts of European colonization.
Likewise, Islam still plays a political role in a country like Senegal and, to illustrate this, the author chose to investigate the shifting power relations within Muslim religious spaces such as Touba (seat of the Mouride Order), Medina Baay (center of the Tidjane-Niassene Order) and Camberene (seat of the Layeene order), and between those spheres and the Senegalese central state.
The event was attended by 20 people.
Film Screening at WARC
Glory, a film by Edward Zwick
On Tuesday, February 10, WARC was the venue for a screening of the 1989 film Glory, which documents the role of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment Volunteer Infantry in the US Civil War. The 54th Massachusetts was one of the first companies composed of free blacks and former slaves to fight as part of the Union Army in the US Civil War. The formation of the 54th was due to the efforts of Frederick Douglass and his Boston-based supporters. The film draws on the personal letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the son of white abolitionists who commanded the regiment. The heroic service of the 54th Massachusetts, forever immortalized by the monument that stands across from the Massachusetts state capitol building, paved the way for the entry of African Americans into the Union forces and marked a turning point in the war.
The film screening, which was attended by about 35 people, was sponsored by WARC and by the Senegalese American Studies Association (SASA). It was introduced by Professor Louis Mendy (UCAD), and was followed by a discussion led by Mme. Ndeye Borso Tall, a PhD candidate in American Studies.
On Thursday afternoon, February 12, the discussion continued, with a panel of doctoral students from the UCAD English/American Studies Department. More than 50 people attended the panel discussion, which included four presentations, each focusing on a different period of African American history.