This gallery offers visitors a journey through urban Senegal.
Some Mourides have found substantial material wealth, especially
in export-import businesses, but most must work very hard
to make a meager living. Through the teachings of Amadu
Bamba, self reliant work becomes a form a prayer, and providing
for one’s family a goal more important than any. Mouride
workplaces are graced by images of the saint, often accompanied
by those of his worldly disciple, Ibra Fall. If Bamba is
the intellectual ascetic, Fall personifies hard work. A
submovement of the Mourides called the Baye Falls live an
almost monastic life working with and for their devotional
groups and their marabout spiritual leaders.
Mourides work in the informal sector—that is, in unsalaried
jobs as cobblers, itinerant salesmen, and the like. A bread
kiosk, brochette cart, and signs made of recycled materials
portraying Bamba as they advertise their wares or services
are displayed in the exhibition as they would be on a street
in Dakar. A market stall will be recreated in which the
saint’s writings and other sacred texts are sold, as will
another for transportation paraphernalia including windshield
blinds depicting Bamba amidst icons of popular culture from
Madonna to Mike Tyson. An accompanying video documents the
hard work of Mourides in a Dakar junkyard, where men melt
discarded aluminum engine blocks to recast as cooking pots
before one’s very eyes. Images of Bamba hanging in such
workplaces inspire courage and perseverance.
second goal, the gallery will give a sense of a movement
of the late 1980s called Set/Setal—"cleanliness and
propriety"—that arose among young people who were increasingly
frustrated by their lack of paying jobs and the deterioration
of their city. People took to the street, not to riot but
to beautify public places. Street names were changed, colonial
monuments replaced, and soon Dakar was pulsating with dynamic
wall murals. Some paintings taught hygiene and safe sex,
but more frequent were portraits of resistance figures,
popular singers, and, more often than not, Amadu Bamba.
An end-of-the-century Senegalese identity emerged, with
the saint as its hero.