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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.
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