Check out our LATEST Blog Post below!
Check out our LATEST Blog Post below!
I’ve spent the last week living in Dakar, and I’ve met brilliant people who are enthralled by their work and genuinely want to hold space for the conversations that MCN believes in and works to expand— discussions surrounding self-expression, creativity and identity formation in unexpected environments.
This week, I tried to observe the Senegalese practice of “teranga.” Roughly translated from Wolof, a national language spoken in Senegal, “teranga” highlights some of the most highly regarded community values— hospitality, warmth and generosity…. This experience made me question what “community” has become and what it is defined to be— Our goal is to continue to build empathy and compassion through education, and I am very much looking forward to learning from this side of the world 📚🤓
Starting to feel a bit more settled in Dakar and truly loving my morning walks to the West African Research Center (WARC) 🚶🏾♀️ Earlier this week, I met with Dr. Mamadou Bodian (PhD, Political Science), and my initial goal was to pick his brain about the My Colorful Nana Project from a global perspective in relation to the significance of Black hair in Senegalese culture…. Intriguingly, our discussion turned into a brief linguistic analysis of the French word: “le style” —
The French concept of “le style” (which has no direct English translation), is an “all encompassing term,” usually used in the context of <<j’aime ton style>> (“I like your style”)— though, as I recently learned from Professor Bodian, “le style” in this context is one way of saying “I like your essence,” “I like your being,” “I like the way you express your thoughts, feelings and beliefs.” Rather than the English version which primarily focuses on the material aspect of one’s fashion sense. (Both equally as lovely 👗)….
In sum, as a visitor on this side of the world, I’m interested in delicately considering how a conversation highlighting the potential limitations of linguistic expression, specifically in English and French critique past and present formative spaces for identity construction on a global scale.
• • • • Stay tuned for a potential podcast episode and/or article (?) diving into this topic 🤫🎙🤎
This week, I got lost for 3 miles and it was equally as exhausting as it was overwhelming. But, once I finally made it to the research center, my friend at the front desk laughed at me and told me that it was bound to happen eventually— his sincerity for my “disheveled-ness” reminded me of why I’m here— to get lost and to be okay with that discomfort.
Trying to spend more time accepting the process and finding more moments to breathe.
On a completely separate note, I met with Alioune Sene, the Associate Coordinator at the West African Research Center (WARC) who shared a link to the Senegalese TV show, "Nandité Yi” (2012) While in the process of navigating the direction of MCN abroad, Alioune told me about how this show documents young members of the community exploring the style and “street smarts” of Senegalese culture. In this episode, the main character expressed the pressure he felt to cut his dreadlocks in preparation for a job interview and to his surprise, the job interviewer proudly sported dreadlocks during the meeting–– [See Video Link: above].
Hair bias, hair discrimination and microaggressions are an ongoing conversation on an international scale–– How does the concept of hair provide a lens to study identity politics as an embodied global performance?
<<L’Afrique n’a personne à rattraper >>
“Africa has no one to catch…..”
-Felwine Sarr (Academic, Musician, Writer)
Spending more time at one of my favorite cafes in Mermoz (so far!). Lulu is a blended Home Interior space and café/restaurant. A cozy and colorful vibe that showcases a sign that quotes a Senegalese Economist stating that, “Africa has no one to catch.” Felwine Sarr confronts the “Western gaze” and encourages the public to “decolonize our way of seeing Africa.”
While living in Dakar, I’m hoping to speak to different artists and academics who can help me expand and complicate my current understanding of creative expression and creative economies in developing countries…. Collectively, how can we broaden our understanding of “critical race theory” by including a discussion on the development of sustainable creative economies (like Black Hair Care) within west Africa and beyond?
According to Libération Publicité, “more and more, our capitalist system seems to be reaching its own limits. Infinite growth in a finite world would be just a myth. Faced with this impasse, a Senegalese economist proposes that Africa finally appear as an alternative, rather than an eternal subordinate.”
“Felwine Sarr is a young economist, teaching at Gaston-Berger University in Saint-Louis, Senegal. Passionate about philosophy and social science, he is also a novelist, musician, publisher. From this atypical profile surely comes the originality of his latest essay Afrotopia, published by Philippe Rey on March 10. According to him, the continent continues to be perceived through the external, Western gaze: "underdeveloped", backward, always in an inferior position. Should we decolonize our way of seeing Africa? An objective that Felwine Sarr addresses above all to Africans, the first concerned.”
Full Article (In French): https://www.liberation.fr/debats/2016/03/24/felwine-sarr-l-afrique-n-a-personne-a-rattraper_1441781/
For my Community Engagement project in Senegal, I hope to nurture my scholarly interests in Body Politics, hair, beauty culture, race, and popular media as sites of creativity and politics... Late last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Mamadou Bodian– We discussed Dr. Mamadou's research on identity formation and religion in relation to my budding research interests on identity formation and Black hair. I found Dr. Mamadou's gentile encouragement to view concepts like "identity" and "individuality" as communal concepts rather than isolating thoughts, feelings and memories to be both complex and inspiring.
Favorite Quote: "Knowing others is also a way of knowing yourself..." -Dr. MB
I believe a conversation on Black hair creates a necessary entry-point to understand the intimate aspects of our lived experiences both together, and separately.
I hope you enjoy our first episode of season 4 for MCN!
*EPISODE LINK COMING SOON! :)
Bio: Dr Bodian received a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Florida in 2016 and a Diplôme d'études approfondies (DEA) in Sociology from the University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar in 2007. He worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the West Africa Research Center (WARC) in Senegal to oversee a research project on 'Student activism and religious movements in Sahelian Universities' funded by the Sahel Research Group thanks to an additional Minerva grant for 2017-18.
This week, I’m feeling grateful for uncertainty as I’m slowly learning how to remain open to the unexpected unfolding.
Last Saturday, our cohort attended the Association of Teachers of English in Senegal (ATES)— we learned about the importance and continuous process of implementing transformational teaching practices on a global scale. Experiencing a community of students genuinely interested in immersing themselves into language learning and linguistic expression is truly rejuvenating. I’m looking forward to spending more time researching the impact of linguistic expression in relation to cultural exchange through creative mediums like singing, dance and even hair styling ♥️
If you’re interested in learning more about the topic above —> A NEW episode of MCN is out now, and I’m very excited to share it with you all… link in bio 📚✨❗️
Last weekend, I visited Saint-Louis, and I saw a poster that read, <<Saint-Louis du Senegal, espace dédié aux innovations, et la créativité, vous invite a repenser le monde.>> .... "Saint-Louis, Senegal, a space dedicated to innovation and creativity, invites you to rethink the world."
I enjoyed stumbling into art installations that were tucked away in buildings that at first, seemed vacant. I loved experiencing a different city in Senegal that prides itself on its creative history and cosmopolitan identity. Lastly, it's inspiring to experience the vastness of West African culture rooted in art that stems from communal forms of individuality and selfhood.
. . . . . .
"...Saint-Louis is a city on the northwest coast of Senegal. It’s known for its colonial architecture. The old town is on N’Dar Island, in the Senegal River. This island is linked to the mainland by the 1865 Faidherbe Bridge, designed by Gustave Eiffel. Place Faidherbe has well-preserved buildings, including the Governor’s Palace and the neoclassical cathedral. The Musée du CRDS exhibits historical artifacts and art..."
"The second half of the 19th century witnessed the steady evolution of Saint-Louis. Following the end of the companies; monopoly and the abolition of slavery, the city welcomed free competition and the trade of different type of goods. It became a major trading centre and a melting pot for meeting and exchange.... This unique character would forge the values on which Saint-Louis' future society would be founded...."
“I Evolved,” Alioune Sene (Season 4, Epi 2)
Last week, I interviewed one of my first friends in Senegal, Alioune Sene!
Alioune shared his experience growing up in Dakar before receiving a BA in New York & Tennessee, a MA in Paris and he is now excitedly living in Dakar, Senegal as an Associate Director for the West African Research Center (WARC). Together, we shared many laughs as we discussed the meaning of “home” in unfamiliar spaces and the power of cultural exchange in relation to self-growth.
I very much look up to Alioune and his ability to be mentally agile in the face of adversity and uncertainty— I remain in awe of his seemingly instinctual urge to embrace “the unexpected” in life as I continue my own personal journey navigating the highs and lows of living abroad.
Season 4, Epi 2 of MCN coming soon :) 📚
Favorite Quote: “….Everything I experienced made me more of who I am today… I evolved.” 🍦(ice cream emoji will feel relevant after checking out the new epi next week…. Thank you again for everyone’s ongoing care & support 🙏🏾♥️)
Late last week, I visited my first "Slave House" on Gorée Island.
"Gorée is a tiny, car-free island off the coast of Dakar, in Senegal. It’s known for its role in the 15th- to 19th-century Atlantic slave trade. On the narrow streets, colonial buildings include the House of Slaves, now a museum. The 19th-century Fort d’Estrées houses the IFAN Historical Museum, with exhibits on Senegal’s past. The Henriette Bathily Women’s Museum considers the role of women in West African society."
I took a ferry to the isolated area and spent time reflecting on the global impact of the African Diaspora. There was one part of me that wanted to intellectualize the entire experience– and– another side of me that felt an intense ache as I considered my own ongoing relationship to survival, joy and healing.
At first, when I was sitting on the boat, I felt myself rocking on the water– I felt the waves crashing as well as my seemingly limitless access to air as I looked at the sun that helped me pace the time of day.... Gradually, I remembered listening to an "On Being" podcast episode with Dr. Joseph Drew Lanham (PhD) who is a Black American poet and wildlife biologist. In this episode, Dr. Lanham explains his interests in studying a Black American person's complex relationship with nature, belonging and love.... He ponders how enslavement and the aftermath of enslavement created a potential alienation as Black people were forced into nature and environments that were once filled with pain. As a result, Dr. Lanham explains how the evolution of nature and the embodiment of a "culture" are entangled with healing and growth.
I hope my words come across as more of a reflection rather than an analysis as I believe that creative work, academic research and activism are inextricable. Here, we can see how the generational process of healing evolved in an unexpected space for an African American birdwatcher who hopes to one day meet more young birdwatchers "who happen to be Black like me..."
I hope to do further research considering: What are other spaces in which displaced and/or marginalized communities process intimate aspects of our lived experiences both together, and separately?
I left Gorée Island feeling inspired by my ancestors and empowered by the people who live on the island in present day. Intriguingly, this space is filled with an energy I can truly only describe as "alive."
"The ornithologist Drew Lanham is lyrical in the languages of science, humans, and birds. His celebrated books include The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature and a collection of poetry and meditations called Sparrow Envy: Field Guide to Birds and Lesser Beasts. Drew Lanham’s way of seeing and hearing and noticing the present and the history that birds traverse — through our backyards and beyond — is a revelatory way to be present to the world and to life in our time. "
MCN Season 4, Epi 2, "I Evolved:" Coming soon :) 📚
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