Highlight : Religion in West Africa

Religion in West Africa:
Cosmopolitanism, Faith Communities & the Social Fabric
West Africa’s Women of God

A lecture by Professor Robert M. Baum, Dartmouth College

On Thursday, March 2, 2017, WARA in conjunction with the Boston University African Studies Center, hosted its semi-annual Religion in West Africa lecture series. Robert Baum, former WARA board member and Professor of Religion at Dartmouth College spoke on women and the prophetic tradition among the Diola of West Africa.

Professor Baum’s lecture explored the life of the Diola prophet, Alinesitoue Diatta. Frequently portrayed as a secular political figure whose critique of colonial policy—particularly agricultural policy—and its impact on the Diola made her somewhat of a resistance figure, Alinesitoue was also a prophet of Emitai, the supreme being. The message she conveyed identified colonial agricultural policies with their focus on cash crops and peanut production as eroding the Diola way of life, creating disparities in wealth in what was essentially an egalitarian society, and eroding the community practice of religious ritual—all in turn contributing to the ills besetting the community. Her critique of colonial policy has made of Alinesitoue a sort of culture hero in Senegal for this resistance.

Professor Baum focused on Alinesitoue’s role as a prophet, someone who consciously receives messages from God and who consciously and intentionally conveys those messages to a larger community—this, in contract to seers, or others who serve as mediums for the divine message. Alinesitoue made it clear that Emitai, the Diola supreme being, had given the message directly to her and commanded her to convey it to others. Alinesitoue is distinct also in being a female prophet, a tradition that has become largely female, although it was, in its origins, exclusively male.

Professor Baum also noted that Emitai, the supreme being worshipped by the Diola, contasts sharply with received ideas about African traditional religion, in which God is seen as a distant creator, not involved in the day-to-day lives of humans.

Professor Baum’s presentation was followed by a lively discussion with the audience, composed of faculty and students.

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HIGHLIGHT: Black History Month at WARC

HIGHLIGHT :  Black History Month at WARC

The West African Research Center’s mandate, among others, calls for the promotion of inter-cultural and cross-cultural dialogue and the celebration of the Diaspora. That is why, every year, the month of February is marked at WARC by a number of activities focusing on Africa and the Black Diaspora and including public lectures and film screenings.

February 2017 was no exception and films such as the newly released The Birth of a Nation (by Nate Parker), Monster’s Ball (by Lee Daniels) were shown to a much appreciative audience all over the month.

From left to right: Pr Abdoulaye Bathily, Pr Boubacar Barry & Pr Aminata Diaw Cissé

From left to right: Pr Abdoulaye Bathily, Pr Boubacar Barry & Pr Aminata Diaw Cissé

The high watermark for this year was certainly the public lecture offered by the world -known and universally acclaimed historian Professor Boubacar Barry on his favorite topic, Senegambia.
The lecture titled The Greater Senegambia: Past, Present and Future followed the unfortunate developments which beset The Republic of the Gambia a few weeks before. Professor Barry’s talk amply demonstrated the historical links which connected all the various countries of West Africa and strongly advocated the emergence of larger and more sustainable political units in the sub-region. The talk was attended by a large public including prominent political leaders, academics, researchers, members of the Civil Society, media specialists etc…numbering 196 people.

A view of the audience

A view of the audience

The lecture was also a tribute paid to Professor Boubacar Barry who, on January 6, 2017, was honored and distinguished by his peers in the American Historical Association gathered in Colorado.

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HIGHLIGHT Book Launch: Ahmet Diouf

HIGHLIGHT :  Book Launch: Ahmet Diouf: La gens de droit maternel ou la famille matriarcale  (L’Harmattan-Senegal, 2016)

This Thursday, March 2, from 4pm to 7pm, the open space of the West African Research Center (WARC) was full to overflow on the occasion of the launch of a seminal essay on matriarchy recently published by Ahmet Diouf, Public Prosecutor in the Senegalese supreme court.

A view of the audience

A view of the audience

Prominent officials in the Senegalese judiciary attended the event along with academics, researchers and many graduated students because the author is also adjunct faculty at University Cheikh Anta and a talented researcher on issues pertaining to the judiciary.

The book launch ceremony offered a high profile panel including sociologists, anthropologists and law specialists who traced back matriarchy to Ancient Egypt and pre-islamic and pre-colonial West Africa thus showing that there existed on the continent rules and regulations centering on matriarchy and which gave birth to strong and sustainable socio-political organisations.

The panelists

The panelists

Sociologists like Fatou Sow Dembel, Fatou Sow Sarr and Abdou Salam Fall, Cheikh Niang, an anthropologist, and Fatou Kine Camara, a law specialist, gave the audience substantial food for thought and urged academics and decision-makers to consider adjusting our curricula, administrative set ups and other state legislations to time-old practices which made of many parts of Africa well-regulated and well-organized political entities. In many of those, especially in West Africa, matriarchy was the sustaining pillar of socio-political organisation.

The event was attended by no less than 146 people.

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Highlight on US Election

WARC Public Lectures –  Tuesday,  October 25, 2016

Le Processus Electoral Américain et la Femme politicienne dans le Système Electoral  Américain

Steven Ekovich, Professor of History and Political Science at the American University in Paris, guest speaker at the WARC Public Lecture Series, was introduced by the newly appointed Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy in Dakar, Mrs Martina Boustani.

WARC Director & the speaker, Professor Steven Ekovich

WARC Director & the speaker, Professor Steven Ekovich

Professor Ekovich began his talk on women in electoral politics in the United States by highlighting various first ladies who played upfront political roles while their husbands were in office. One case, among several others cited, was that of Eleonore Roosevelt. He also mentioned the 20 women presently sitting in the U.S. Senate, and the fact that 20 percent of the members of the House of Representatives is composed of women.
According to Profewssor Ekovich, opinion polls in 1937 showed that 33 per cent of the American people would welcome a woman president; by 1996 that percentage had risen to 96 per cent. He also underlined the role of women as voters: for the last 50 years more women have been voting than men.

Professor Ekovich then turned to the current presidential campaign, noting the unusually confrontational tone and mood. He explained for the audience the electoral colleges, grand electors, swing states, and the importance of states such as Florida and California in the final outcome of the election, which will take place on November 8.

A view of the audience

A view of the audience

The presentation was followed by lively discussion moderated by the WARC Director. Professor Ekovich fielded questions and offered insightful comments on the topic. The presentation was attended by more than 30 people.

 

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Highlight NMAAHC

The US Diplomatic Mission in Senegal & the West African Research Center (WARC) Join to Celebrate the Opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture

On the afternoon of Friday September 23rd, the multi-media conference room of the West African Research Center (WARC) was filled to capacity.

A view of the audience

A view of the audience

More than 60 men and women came to WARC to attend the learn more about the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), officially inaugurated by President Obama on Saturday, September 24th in Washington, D.C. The event opened with introductory words from Mr. Robert Post, the US Embassy Public Affairs Officer. Mr. Post highlighted the contribution of the Museum to the appreciation and preservation of the American collective experience. He was followed by the Director of WARC, who took a few minutes to present a survey of the history of the African American community.

This was followed by a comprehensive presentation by the anthropology professor, Dr Ibrahima Thiaw (IFAN-UCAD), who elaborated on the various collaborative efforts between the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. and local institutions such as IFAN.

L to R: Ousmane Sène, WARC Director, Robert Post , PAO US Embassy, and Dr.Ibrahima Thiaw, IFAN

L to R: Ousmane Sène, WARC Director, Robert Post , PAO US Embassy, and Dr.Ibrahima Thiaw, IFAN

He placed special emphasis on the Slave Wrecks project now being implemented through a strong partnership between the Smithsonian, WARC and IFAN. The various presentations were followed by contributions and questions from the audience, which was composed of prominent faculty, intellectuals, reporters, researchers and students.

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Highlight: Museum of Black Civlizations

The West African Research Center:
A Key Player in Preparing the Opening of

Musee des Civilisations Noires /Museum of Black Civilization

All eyes are on Dakar, Senegal as we look forward to the opening of the Museum of Black Civilization in November 2016. On the afternoon of Thursday, July 27, 2016, the Senegalese Prime Minister presided over the opening session of the international conference to preparing and preceding the opening. In the words of the Senegalese Prime Minister, the Museum, although meant to uphold and illustrate the values of Black Civilizations the world over, should be understood as an achievement celebrating the dialogue of all cultures and civilizations.Musée

For four days in the Senegalese capital, participants coming from over 20 countries including Egypt and the United States will discuss the various themes on the agenda of the panels and will contribute to further shaping the mission and objectives of the Museum.

The West African Research Center (WARC) is fully involved in the proceedings as member of the organizing and scientific committees and helped identify resource persons to be invited to attend the conference from the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and other academic institutions.

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Highlight Book Presentation at WARC

Book Presentation at the West African Research Center
March 29, 2016

” Tu Seras un Enseignant, Mon Fils ” by Thierno Souleymane Diop

(Presses Universitaires de Dakar, 2016)

The author of the featured book, Thierno Souleymane Diop, is a 96 year-old retired teacher who is among the very select elite who ushered in independent Senegal and contributed to building the nation-state. His name is to be counted with other celebrated names such as Leopold Senghor, Mamadou Dia, and other shapers of the nation.

From left to right: Professor Rawane Mbaye; Mr. Seck, Minister of Agriculture; and the author, Mr. Thierno Diop

From left to right: Professor Rawane Mbaye; Mr. Seck, Minister of Agriculture; and the author, Mr. Thierno Diop

Tu Seras un Enseignant, Mon Fils is Mr. Diop’s autobiograph, retracing the growth and schooling of a Saint-Louis born young man. When faced with the challenge of choosing a profession, he was firmly instructed by his semi-literate father to become a school teacher. According to the father, there was no better calling than being a school teacher, a shaper of minds. Sans titre-1This was especially true in the few years preceding the independence era when so many future African nations needed a well-educated and well-trained elite to blaze the trail.

The event was very well attended with no fewer than 200 people filling the WARC premises. The attendance included high ranking government officials, distinguished academics, prominent members of civil society and political leaders as well as researchers, students, reporters and family members and friends.

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Highlight L’Afrique quel Avenir

“L’Afrique: Quel Avenir ?”[What Future, Africa?]

A Roundtable at the West African Reseach Center

Over 60 people from academic circles, civil society and the media filled the DAART conference on Tuesday, March 22nd, to attend the round table titled “L’Afrique: Quel Avenir?” (“What Future, Africa?”)

 

The event opened with contributions from Moroccan and West African scholars. These included Mr. Driss Alaoui Mdaghri, writer and former minister in the Moroccan cabinet; Professor Penda Mbow, Senegalese historian; Mr. Mignane Diouf, Coordinator of the Senegalese Social Forum; Professor Bouazza Benachir, Moroccan historian; Mrs. Raja Aghzadi, President of the Moroccan association, “Coeur de Femme”; Mr. Abdelkader Retnani, Chairman of the Union of Moroccan Publishers; and the director of WARC.

From left to right: Pr Ousmane Sène, Mr Driss Mdaghri,  Pr Penda Mbow, Mrs Raja Aghzadi & Mr Mignane Diouf

From left to right: Pr Ousmane Sène, Mr Driss Mdaghri, Pr Penda Mbow, Mrs Raja Aghzadi & Mr Mignane Diouf

Many of the speakers concurred that the future belongs to the African continent and this was substantiated by statistics and other developmental assets such as natural resources, younger populations, and progress made in areas such as democracy and human rights in many African countries.

At the same time, panelists urged African decision-makers and other stakeholders to give priority to self-reliance, self-confidence and to take into account the need for fairer distribution of wealth, the advancement of education, human rights and further entrenchment of democratic rule and leadership.

The roundtable discussion was followed by intense and thought-provoking exchanges with the audience.

Newspaper  WalfQuotidien  du Jeudi 24 Mars 2016, page 11

Newspaper WalfQuotidien du Jeudi 24 Mars 2016, page 11

 

The workshop was hosted and co-organized by WARC in collaboration with the Moroccan Foundation for World cultures and the Association of Moroccan publishers as part of a week-long event in Senegal featuring various facets of Moroccan culture.

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HIGHLIGHT Roundtable on Islam & Peace – Columbia, Majaliss, WARC

Islam and Peace in Senegal: Perspectives offered by Sufi Traditions
A Roundtable at WARC

The round table opened at the West African Research Center (WARC) the morning of Thursday, March 17th. This joint initiative of the Institute of African Studies and the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life (both at Columbia University), the Majaliss Association in Senegal, and WARC, brought together 33 participants, including five faculty from Columbia University, academic colleagues from Senegal, researchers affiliated with WARC, representatives of the major Muslim brotherhoods in the country and other specialists on religious issues.

Left to right: Dr Karen Barkey, Dr Mamadou Diouf , Dr Katherine Ewing ( from Columbia)  & Dr Cheikh Guèye ( from ENDA – Dakar)

Left to right: Dr Karen Barkey, Dr Mamadou Diouf , Dr Katherine Ewing ( from Columbia) & Dr Cheikh Guèye ( from ENDA – Dakar)

The group met at WARC to discuss current conflictual developments in the world– and particularly in West Africa. The group considered strategies for countering such adverse trends, strategies based on religious teachings on peaceful cohabitation which are the foundation of religious coexistence in many West African countries and in Senegal in particular.

The round table wrapped up in the early afternoon and was followed by a meeting of various local stakeholders. The meeting focused on working together on creating a unified operational and strategic framework to consolidate inter-religious dialogue and religion-based conflict resolution in Senegal.

Prior to the session at WARC, roundtable participants visited the Muslim holy cities of Touba and Tivaouane and, on Monday, March 14th, attended a high-level panel on Islam & Peace held at Hotel King Fahd and chaired by the Senegalese Prime Minister.

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Highlight: Symposium Race, Racism and the Construction of Black Modernities

A Symposium for Black History Month: Race, Racism and the Construction of Black Modernities
A collaboration between WARA/WARC, the National Museum of African American History & Culture, and Universite Cheikh Anta Diop
February 2016

The recent 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.

Professor Michael Blakey giving his presentation

Professor Michael Blakey giving his presentation

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.

Many students and faculty attended the three-day symposium

Many students and faculty attended the three-day symposium

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. The symposium session held at WARC was attended by 37 people.

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