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Amadu Bamba lived in a period of French conquest and colonial rule that extended beyond his death in 1927 to Senegalese independence in 1960. Adoption of Islam was rapid and widespread during these years, and texts and images were important to the process. In West Africa as elsewhere, this was an "age of mechanical reproduction" following development of technologies of mass media. Today Bamba’s image appears in almost every medium imaginable, always based upon the 1913 photograph. What distinguishes Mouride visuality—that is, their culturally constructed way of seeing—from that of many outside of Senegal is that the image of Amadu Bamba is a vital presence. Saints possess baraka, a blessed energy that is available in many ways and places, including images of Amadu Bamba. Mourides touch the saint’s image to gain its baraka, but simply placing it in one’s home, workplace, or neighborhood assures that the saint is there to guide and protect. And Bamba’s image is dynamic no matter how, where, or how many times it is produced.

Here are examples of the saint’s image in plaster, on paper, and in coconut shell. An unsigned glass painting shows a group of young Mourides watching a movie of Bamba thwarting an evil jinn (genie), underscoring the realism of the saint’s miracle by the "truth" of documentary cinema. It should be noted that many Muslims and non-Muslims alike believe it improper for Muslims to depict human beings, for to do so is to transgress the province of God to create life. Yet no such prohibition exists in the holy Qur’an, and even the most orthodox Muslims the world over portray religious leaders and other important figures of the faith in wall paintings, posters, on television, and in other popular media. Through visual arts, pious Muslims experience the immediacy and presence of their hallowed teachers. In this, Mourides are no different from other Muslims, and the intensity of their vivid visual culture can help non-Muslims to understand and appreciate the ideas and practices of their faith.



 
--------------Introduction : Rise of Islam : Life of a Saint : Mass Produced Imagery : Mouride Work Ethic
---Devotional Sanctum : Healing Prayers : Architecture : Apostles : Sainted Women : Global Networks : Pilgrimage