Welcome to Africulturban…

Africulturban is one of the premier hip-hop cultural centers in the Dakar area.The name is combined from the words Afrique- Culture- Urban and the association focuses on the education, promotion, and development of urban arts in Senegal. I have been lucky enough to collaborate with Africulturban quite a bit throughout my time here in Senegal.
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When a new baby is born…

Here in Senegal, relationships between families are of the utmost importance and ceremonies that refresh such relationships are the most valued and anticipated. These ceremonies, which usually revolve around weddings and births, are a chance for people to have fun and catch up with family members they haven’t seen for long periods of time. A while back I attended one such ceremony… a “nguente” (pronounced ngen-tay) or baby naming ceremony of a friend who had had a baby.

For Muslim families in Senegal, when a baby is born, no name is given until one week after it takes its first breath of air. An Imam then comes to the house, verses from the Koran are recited, and the baby’s name is given. This is the smaller, religious portion of the naming ceremony called a “tudu”. About a month later, a big festive party with extreme gift giving and food eating and singing and dancing and celebrating happens. All of the relatives of the new parents come into town and celebrate the baby and strengthen the ties between the families. This is particularly important because in Senegal, most women move to their husband’s family’s house when they get married and the celebration is a chance for the wife’s whole family to get to know the husband’s.
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The World Festival of Black Arts and Cultures

As if living in Senegal isn’t exciting enough as it is, this year I was extremely lucky to have the extra bonus of living in Senegal during the time when the “Third Edition” of the World Festival of Black Arts and Cultures was happening. The festival, called Le Festival Mondial des Arts Negres in French, better known as FESMAN, took place in Dakar throughout the month of December. The first of these festivals was held in Dakar in 1966 during the time that many African countries were gaining their independence. The second was held in 1977 in Lagos, Nigeria, and the third 33 years later again in Dakar, around the time that many African countries have been celebrating fifty years of independence. The goal of the 2010 festival was to represent an Africa that is “liberated, proud, creative, and optimistic” and celebrate “cultural diversity, and a dialogue between peoples and cultures”.

There were art exhibitions, theater and dance performances, fashion shows, and of course lots and lots of MUSIC. Since I was still in the midst of moving and settling in, I wasn’t able to soak up all that I wanted (had I been able, I would’ve spent all day every day attending the different events!), but I did make a point to catch as many concerts as I possibly could.
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Where Ancient Meets Urban…

I remember when I was about nine years old going to the Chicago Field Museum and wandering through the Senegal exhibit. When I sat down in the museum’s replica of a colorful Dakar public transport minibus called a “Car Rapid” and watched a film that gave the impression that you are riding in one driving around Dakar, the busy sights and sounds on the screen amazed me. Little did I know that years later I would be sitting among people in colorful African bubus, using one of these minibuses as my daily mode of transportation, witnessing the very same sights and sounds I’d seen in the film. In fourth grade I got exposed to Senegalese music when my teacher invited a kora player into the class to teach us about the griot musical tradition in West Africa. It made a great impression on me and sparked my interest in African music, but I never imagined I would be spending a year of my life in Senegal, witnessing griot culture live and direct.
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