It has been great to see your introductions and responses to the posts on the Yak board. We look forward to taking these conversations further during the course. As you are preparing to travel in the coming days, we would like to post a few thoughts and links on contemporary life in Senegal. Perhaps you will have time to view these while transiting in airports on the way!
The theme of ‘Music and Mysticism’ runs through our cultural immersion program in Senegal. These two (often inseparable) categories weave through all aspects of life in Senegal, including culture, politics, history, food, language, and the environment. Music and Mysticism make up a great deal of the ‘living culture’ of Senegal.
When I (Jenny) look back at my first trip to Senegal, I remember feeling that I was learning so much every day, because experiencing a new culture by living in it, embracing it and engaging with people brings profound understanding. I wondered if I would ever feel at home in the new environment. So much has changed since then. Now, every time I come back to Senegal, the smell of thiouraye (incense) and the ocean, the sound of the call to prayer and the clip-clop of hooves on Dakar pavement, the softness of the equatorial light… all of this feels like home to me.
Our itinerary includes visits and guest speaks on a range of topics, and by engaging in ‘living culture’ a lot of the learning will take place through our engagement with the society and the people we encounter. Whether by cooking with a homestay family member in the village or striking up conversation in the market in Thies, we will interact with Senegalese culture and build relationships.
Below, we have shared some resources about some cultural elements related to Senegalese life and society. We encourage you to spend some time looking at Wolof and French language resources, such as to become familiar with greetings, even YouTube is a suitable resource for this. We will also support you with learning essential language phrases during the course.
Senegalese culture is diverse and rich, as shown in the different music from various parts of the country. Understanding how music fits in with daily life and religious devotion is key. We’ve included a list of terms below (this includes musical artists, religious brotherhoods, some “mystery words” for you to research, and, because the presidential elections are coming up, a few political terms as well). You might be interested to do some of your own research before coming using these terms as guideposts for where to look. Feel free to post your findings here on the Yak board!
All the best,
Jenny and Samba
Music and Mysticism
-Cheikh Amadou Bamba
-Pape et Cheikh
-Chekh Ibrahima Fall