November 17

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Some of the many symbols of Senegal

Today I’m just sharing a few photos of emblems of Senegal.

African Renaissance Monument – Dakar

The African Renaissance Monument is a 49m tall bronze statue located on top of one of the twin hills known as Collines des Mammelles. The statue was designed by the Senegalese architect Pierre Goudiaby after an idea presented by President Abdoulaye Wade and built by a North Korean company. The formal dedication occurred on 4 April 2010, Senegal’s “National Day”, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence from France. It is the tallest statue in Africa.

Many in Dakar feel that it was a waste of money, but I think that locals will eventually feel proud as time goes by as this is symbolic structure. The only cristiscm that may not go away is that the features of the 3 characters do not very resemble that of real Senegalese. Nevertheless I personally find it impressive, especially from up close.

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House of Slaves – Gorée Island

Gorée Island is located 2 to 3 miles away from Dakar. It was the main hub of the Atlantic slave trade, although there is controversy about this.  Slaves (women, men, and children) were taken away from their homes and transported to one of the many slave houses that existed at the time, triaged, and then loaded on ships going to various destinations in North and South America as well as Caribbean islands. The House of Slaves that tourists now visit was reconstructed and opened as a museum in 1962.

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Baobab Tree – Throughout Senegal

Baobab is the common name for Adansonia. There are nine species, the one in mainland Africa being Adansonia digitata.

The trees reach heights of 5 to 30 meters (16 to 98 ft) and trunk diameters of 7 to 11 meters (23 to 36 ft). Its trunk can hold up to 120,000 liters of water. For most of the year, the tree is leafless, and looks very much like it has its roots sticking up in the air, hence their other name “upside down trees”. Baobabs live well over a thousand years as attested by radio-carbon dating. There is every reason to believe that certain baobabs are far older still, but these ancient trees are invariably hollow – the oldest wood at the center having disintegrated to create a cavity.

Baobabs are found in multiple sub-Saharan Africa countries – and in Madagascar and Australia – so Senegal cannot really claim this tree 100%, still it’s found throughout the country and is very emblematic here.

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Youssou N’Dour – Musician

Youssou N’Dour is considered Africa’s greatest living musical artist. Born in Dakar in the late 50’s he is known for his wide vocal range and for introducing international audiences to mbalax, a Senegalese popular music that blends Wolof traditional instrumental and vocal forms of Cuban and Latin American influences.  In the 80’s he Africanized and updated the mbalax sound by mixing it with jazz and hip hop. He also became more engaged with lyrics addressing political and social issues such as apartheid and the importance of maintaining African cultural identity in an interconnected world.  He has collaborated and toured with rock stars like Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen, and many others.

He then shifted his focus toward matters in Senegal, where he established a recording studio, a record label, a media organization that included a radio station and a newspaper, and a network of Internet cafés. As part of his evolution towards politics he actually tried to run for the 2012 presidency election but was ruled out not eligible. The newly elected president Macky Sall appointed him minister for culture and tourism in April 2012 but he lost his portfolio in Sep 2013.

As a result of his political activities Youssou N’Dour has had very few live concerts. I was fortunate enough to attend the 2014 Cauris d’Or (annual event that distinguishes political and business individuals). Well, I actually couldn’t get in as this was for well connected parties, but I was able to benefit from the music by just staying outside the tent that was temporarily installed for the occasion. Youssou N’Dour performed for the occasion and it was a beautiful night sitting outside and listening in.