I recently visited the West African country of Senegal, which was amazing and indescribable. When I returned, I searched the library catalog to see what kinds of items were owned about Senegal and I was very surprised to see that there was quite a bit.
Senegal is a country on the western coast of Africa, just south of the Sahara Desert, which is slowing creeping across its northern boarder. Mostly I was in the capital city of Dakar. With a population hovering around 1 million in the city proper, Senegal can appear to be a dusty, overcrowded, traffic nightmare, but at the heart of the country are its people, its culture and its ethnic diversity. The Senegalese are a people rich in tradition - singing songs, dancing and dressing in colorful clothing - and I feel so privileged to have been able to share this, even if for only a short time.
One of the first items that I found in the catalog was this music CD. I recognized it immediately from a monastery I had visited there! Abbaye de Keur Moussa is a Benedictine monastery founded in 1961, becoming an abbey in 1984. As of 2000, the monastery was home to 26 monks, world renowned for their unique style of sacred chanting mixed with African rhythms. The public can visit the abbey and view the extraordinary chapel, whose walls are adorned with block-print-like images depicting different biblical stories. We only spent about an hour here, but it was a beautiful place to reflect. Below you can see a few pictures that I took there.
One of the most famous Senegalese musicians is Youssou N'Dour, whose music mixes traditional Senegalese sounds with jazz and soul. N'Dour is mainly known around the world for his music, but he is a man of many talents, including filmmaking, acting, politics and activism. The library has several titles, including both music and movies.
Another group I discovered in the KRL catalog was Orchestra Baobab, a group organized in 1970 as a multi-ethnic, multi-national club band, melding many traditional Senagalese sounds with Cuban jazz. This long-standing group broke up briefly in the 1980s, but reunited in 2001. The group has produced many performers who went on to solo fame and have partnered with many world-renowned artists like the Buena Vista Social Club and Dave Matthews.
While in Senegal, I had the opportunity to taste some traditional dishes, even though the restaurants had many Western dishes to choose from. When invited into people's homes, we were served a dish called Yassa, which is made with either chicken or fish, which is offered on special occasions, holidays and for guests. This dish was not only delicious, but was served on a "common" dish. Below you can see the large dish that 5 or 6 people would eat from. Using a spoon, each person carved a pie-shaped portion for themselves, leaving a small mound of food between your area and your neighbors'. The eldest person at the table cut the meat and large vegetables and distributed them around the pan. At the end of the meal, each diner breaks the mound of food between sections to symbol that you are friends. A recipe for this dish can be found in "Cooking the West African Way" by Bertha Vinning Montgomery.
Continue to explore the history, films and stories of the beautiful country of Senegal by clicking on the list of library items!