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The Coda to this book examines the latest edition of Dak’Art, Senegal’s biennial art exhibition, which – while operating in a neoliberal art market – has retained a Pan-African agenda. In Dak’Art 2016, the organizers used various colonial buildings to exhibit contemporary art and thus appropriated the colonial cityscape for its decolonizing agenda. More than 50 years after Senegal acquired its political independence, a nostalgia for Pan-African politics remains on the utopian horizon. In the Coda, this decolonial utopia is situated in a wider temporal landscape of lost and reclaimed futures. In Reinhart Koselleck’s understanding of historical time, the imagination of political alternatives in the historical present assumes an untimely quality. Indeed, as we have seen throughout the book, the process of decolonization is not a linear historical process; rather, it is refracted by ‘uncanny returns, repetitions, and re-enchantments’. The Coda explores how such untimely temporalities are embodied in the African Renaissance Monument, inaugurated in 2010 to celebrate Senegal’s independence amidst widespread dissatisfaction with government politics. It posits that the imagination of African futures is as untimely as it ever was.
Positing that African countries willingly commemorate the transatlantic slave trade but forget the legacies of domestic slavery, this chapter examines the continuation of slavery in the shadows of the House of Slaves at Gorée Island. To examine these hidden legacies of slavery, this chapter looks at the history of the mixed-race Signares and their historical implication in the slave trade and domestic slavery. One of the moral conundrums in the legacy of the Signares is their mixed parentage of European fathers and subordinate Black mothers, placing race at the heart of the cultural creolization (métissage) that is celebrated today as the legacy of Signares. This chapter establishes that the heritages of the slave trade and the Signares are framed as irreconcilable discourses that lead to divergent interpretations of the material culture of the island. Examining a controversial statue, the island’s architectural legacies, the impersonators of Signares, and the Festival of Return, this chapter establishes that the antinomies between the legacies of the slave trade and the Signares are occasionally overcome in rituals of reconciliation.
The House of Slaves at Gorée Island was listed as a World Heritage site in 1978, one year before Auschwitz concentration camp. This chapter examines the process of heritagization of the House of Slaves as one of the African sites for the commemoration of the slave trade. Adopting Michael Rothberg’s perspective on multidirectional memory, it demonstrates how the project of the House of Slaves was indebted to the recognition of the Holocaust as a global trauma: the commemoration of the slave trade is in several ways entangled with the commemoration of the Holocaust. But from Senegal’s independence onwards, the House of Slaves was also inflected by a vision of Negritude. The first curator of the House of Slaves, Joseph Ndiaye, gave it a global significance through his performances as ‘witness’ to the slave trade. By giving testimony, Joseph Ndiaye claimed an epistemic space for the articulation of Blackness. He simultaneously introduced the figure of the witness to the genre of the memorial museum and reclaimed the African legacy of orality against the Occidental epistemology of history. As embodiment of a legacy of the project for human rights, Joseph Ndiaye also claimed this museum as an African project of emancipation.
In the year when France commemorated the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of its territory from Nazi rule by the Allied Forces, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal initiated a commemoration of the contribution that the Tirailleurs sénégalais made to this military victory. Inviting the heads of different African states whose colonial subjects had joined the colonial army of Tirailleurs, the Day of the Tirailleur was celebrated on 23 August 2004 to commemorate the day of the landing at Toulon. In the Senegalese media, the ‘blood debt’ of France to its African liberators was widely debated, and the discrimination in pensions that African veterans have experienced since political independence was widely condemned. During the day, a statue of the soldiers Demba and Dupont was unveiled at its new location to recognize the contribution Africans have made to France’s military history. This colonial statue was first inaugurated in 1923 to recognize the role played by Tirailleurs in the First World War; it is now recycled to remind France of its colonial debt. The Day of the Tirailleur reminded France of its obligations towards the Senegalese migrants in France whose legal status was very much debated at the time. By reinstating a colonial statue and recycling the social capital made by sacrifice, the Senegalese government appropriated and reinterpreted African history, recycling its colonial legacy as a technique of repair.
General Faidherbe founded the École normale William Ponty in Saint-Louis to train the sons of colonial chiefs and assimilate them in French culture. In the early twentieth century, the school was moved from Saint-Louis to Gorée, then to Sébikotane, just beyond Rufisque. During the colonial era, the school educated many African students hailing from all over Afrique-Occidentale Française, several of whom went on to lead their countries into independence and became their first presidents. President Abdoulaye Wade was one of the Ponty students. This chapter examines Wade’s initiative to establish the University of the African Future on the same site where the ruins of the Ponty School stand today. It looks at the architecture of the campus, the envisioned curriculum, and its stated aim to stop the brain drain from Africa. Conceived as a Pan-African institution, the university was placed alongside the Ponty School as its postcolonial incarnation. However, as the funding for the project fell through due to changing international politics, the site now houses the ruins of two educational infrastructures standing side by side. This chapter examines how both infrastructures were conceived as Afro-utopias and generated Afro-nostalgia for futures to come.
During the slave trade, Signares kept domestic slaves and accumulated considerable wealth. As Signares walked to Midnight Mass, their dresses were illuminated by the light of lanterns made and carried by their slaves, highlighting their wealth. This chapter examines the historical origins of the lantern festival or Fanal, as it is known in Saint-Louis, and its continuous performance as cultural heritage in the city. Celebrated as Creole legacy by President Senghor, he made it a national heritage. This chapter examines the assemblages the festival establishes between the patrons and their craftspeople as their relations are mediated by the materiality and performativity of the lanterns paraded at the festival. Although the heirs of the Signares left Saint-Louis at national independence and the festival has been appropriated by African citizens, it continues to celebrate forms of difference and distinction reminiscent of domestic slavery. Furthermore, by celebrating the achievements of the patrons, the lantern festival still establishes the status of patrons as ‘shining lights’ of the nation. This suggests that the African citizens who act as patrons have accepted the responsibilities with which their colonial predecessors have endowed them. Through colonial nostalgia they have assumed the legacy of colonialism.
The Prologue discusses the fall of the statue of General Louis Faidherbe in Saint-Louis, Senegal. The statue was placed in the main square of Saint-Louis in 1886 but was toppled in 2017. Although the perpetrators of this act of iconoclasm were unknown, the toppling of the statue was acclaimed by some of the town’s population. The mayor of Saint-Louis nonetheless restored the statue to its former position, defending the colonial heritage of a city that owes its existence to the French empire. However, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, the statue of Faidherbe once again became the subject of heated debates in the national media. Considered by some as the founder of modern Senegal, others denounce Faidherbe as a perpetrator of colonial violence. The Prologue examines how the legacy of this key figure in the history of colonialism is assessed today. Considering the question of responsibility as key to this debate, the Prologue questions the usefulness of the categories of perpetrators and victims in the history of colonialism. Following Michael Rothberg, it studies the decolonization of heritage using his concept of implicated subjects.
In 2019, the Museum of Black Civilizations was inaugurated by President Macky Sall. The concept for this museum had been launched by President Senghor during the First World Festival of Negro Arts in 1966. More than 50 years later, the museum finally opened its doors. Its timely opening made headlines across the world as it coincided with a global debate on the restitution to the countries of origin of objects illicitly acquired under colonial rule. Funded by the Republic of China, the Museum of Black Civilizations offered itself as a recipient for the restitution of 100 objects collected on Senegal’s territory. This chapter discusses the realization both of Senghor’s concept for a museum of Black Civilizations in the twenty-first century and of a project for the recuperation of African civilization. Through an analysis of its programme and exhibitions, the chapter examines how the museum decolonizes the concept of the museum by focusing on its exhibition of Abrahamic religions, as well as on the sabre of El Hadj Oumar Tall, an object that the Restitution Report advised should be a priority for return. Analysing the museum’s politics of restitution and repair, it frames the museum’s concept of Blackness as a technique to repair the legacies of race science.
The Introduction situates the book’s themes in three different debates. First, it situates the question of Senegal’s decolonization in a debate about non-national futures as they were imagined by Negritude and Pan-African thinkers at the time of decolonization. Although these non-national futures have now become unthinkable, this book demonstrates that they are remembered as futures past in Senegal’s colonial heritage sites. Second, it situates the interpretation of Senegal’s cultural heritage in a debate about the legacy of Léopold Sédar Senghor’s Negritude. Senegal’s politics of heritagization are indebted to the Negritude philosophy of Senegal’s first president, whose politics of heritage were aimed at the reclamation of African dignity and respect, promising liberation through recuperation. Hence, this book situates the reclamation of African heritage in a temporality of return and frames cultural heritage as a technique of repair. Third, it situates the reclamation of African heritage in debates about world heritage, arguing that Senghor’s archiving project and support for UNESCO’s World Heritage List constituted parallel heritage projects pointing towards the decolonization of world heritage. The book posits that decolonization as envisioned by UNESCO and Senghor is a project to repair the traumas of modernity.
Not all inhabitants of Saint-Louis embrace the history of colonialism. The descendants of the colonial subjects remember colonialism very differently from the elites who celebrate the Fanal. They remember that the founder of the Muridiyya Sufi order, Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, was tried by the privy council in Saint-Louis in 1895 and sent into exile. On 5 September of each year, the disciples of the Sufi marabout commemorate a prayer of emergency said by their saint at that trial. This chapter analyses the history of that prayer and examines it as a palimpsest performance that accumulates many different histories and remembers them at once. It analyses the commemoration as a hybrid of different temporalities aligned to repair the legacy of colonial domination for the disciples of a Muslim marabout whose resistance is remembered as the foundation moment of the independent nation. In an interpretation inflected by Afro-nationalism and Sufi spirituality, the disciples credit the prayer with bringing about national independence through occult means. They remember it as a miracle performed by the Sufi leader that established Senegal’s political independence.
Senegal features prominently on the UNESCO World Heritage List. As many of its cultural heritage sites are remnants of the French empire, how does an independent nation care for the heritage of colonialism? How does it reinterpret slave barracks, colonial museums, and monuments to empire to imagine its own national future? This book examines Senegal's decolonization of its cultural heritage. Revealing how Léopold Sédar Senghor's philosophy of Négritude inflects the interpretation of its colonial heritage, Ferdinand de Jong demonstrates how Senegal's reinterpretation of heritage sites enables it to overcome the legacies of the slave trade, colonialism, and empire. Remembering and reclaiming a Pan-African future, De Jong shows how World Heritage sites are conceived as the archive of an Afrotopia to come, and, in a move towards decolonization, how they repair colonial time.