A programme of the West African Research Association and
the West African Research Center in Dakar, Senegal
Theme : Mediterranean and Trans-Atlantic Echoes
1. Presentation of the programme.
Envisioned for the second week of January 2005, in Jiloor Jijaak, Dakar, and Gorée Island, Sénégal, the second edition of Bouki Blues Festival was devoted to the historical and cultural links between West Africa, the Mediteranean world and the Western hemisphere. The first edition, held on January 7-12, 2002, was primarily devoted to the Mississippi-Louisiana area where African music has survived under the name of Blues, a musical form that evolved in the urban milieu to give birth to Jazz and Rock ‘n Roll. Musicians and scholars from Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, and Mississippi were given the opportunity to interact during that week-long event. The keynote speaker was the late professor Peter Aschoff of the University of Mississippi at Oxford and the guest star was the celebrated blues singer James “Super Chikan” Johnson from clarksdale, Mississippi.
Bouki Blues Festival is also designed as :
- An opportunity to promote African culture, especially the performing arts;
- An arena for the struggle against all forms of modern slavery;
- A cultural fair to the benefit of the local population;
- A sustainable cultural industry based at least on five permanent jobs and hundreds of seasonal jobs during the week of the festival.
Bouki Blues Festival is concieved as an integrated educational project bringing together scholars, artists, and the target populations in order to perform the cultural connections, not only talk about them. This project would also be a non-sense if limited to urban areas. Participants will have the opportunity to discover the rural milieu where african culture is more obvious. The rural population also needs to be associated with international cultural events hitherto limited to big cities.
2. Why the name “Bouki Blues Festival”?
What musical form symbolizes human sufferance better than the blues ? The blues is a way of life, a synthesis of African culture in America. Its most typical melodic features came from the Sahel and the savannah of West Africa just like Bouki and Lapin, the famous folktales characters which one still finds today in Louisiana. Compère Lapin is nothing else but the American survival of Leuk-le-lièvre, the West African hare, who eventually evolved into the cartoon character Bugs Bunny. Bouki is the Wolof name for the hyena, a character that also survived in folktales from Florida, the Bahamas, and Haiti.
Bouki symbolizes the persistence of African culture in America, and African wisdom at large. The way West Africans have depicted his character traits summarizes eloquently their mostly dramatic experience with the rest of the world. Germaine Dieterlen and Yousouf Tata Cissé noted in Les Fondements de la Société du Komo that “the hyena, for the Bambara, is gifted with intuition and infallible foresight. It possesses “dark knowledge” : the obscurity, that is to say, the mystery, has no secrets for him. His name is constantly associated with the night which shelters loves, with the secret of maternities, and cults of fertility and abundance. The hyena is guardian of life on Earth. Often presented in popular stories as naïve and clumsy, he is in reality, typical of “gens du savoir” who always seem to be disinterested, carefree and cool.”
The Director of the Festival
Dr. Ibrahima Seck