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In 2026, Senegal will become the first country in Africa to host an Olympic event, when the Summer Youth Olympics will take place in Dakar. Initially set for 2022, the world’s most important sporting tournament for teenagers has been pushed back on account of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The YOG was added to the Olympics in 2010 to give younger athletes ages 14 to 18 the chance to compete.

Travel based on your DNA: My experience with 23andMe’s DNA genetic testing kit & finding my roots in Senegal, West Africa

When the Youth Olympic Games were held in Buenos Aires in 2018, more than 4,000 athletes from 260 countries participated.

Despite the delay, Senegalese leaders are excited to be the first African country to host the YOG but also understand that there is a great deal of responsibility that comes with it.

“There  are expectations from the whole African continent , and Senegal has to organise games that  would live up to the standards of previous Youth Olympics .  And because of that,  Senegal is going to make sure its a success  and serves as a catalyst for mobilizing and engaging Senegalese youth in particular, and African youth in general,” Babacar Makhtar Wade, president of the Senegal Judo Federation, told Voice of America.

Wade, who is also treasurer of the Senegal National Olympic and Sports Committee, says officials are already planning renovations for the games.

“We are planning to first renovate  three main venues — the Iba Mar Diop Stadium, which will host track, rugby, and other sports. There’s also  our  Olympic pool, which needs to be renovated. It has an adjacent park, which will host a few events such as the BMX freestyle, basketball 3 on 3, and hockey games. And there is also the Caserne Samba Diery Diallo, where the equestrian-related activities will take place,” he adds.

In addition, Wade says there will be venues outside of Senegal’s capital city that will host beach volleyball, boating, and other events.

Just outside of Dakar in the city of Diamniadio, a 50,000-seat multipurpose stadium is currently being constructed. Senegal President Macky Sall says the stadium will be available for future local and international competitions.

The Yaaku, a name which translates to the hunting people, migrated from Ethiopia to the caves and hills of the Mukogodo forest in Kenya’s Rift Valley more than a century ago.They were known to keep bees and began trading with the Maasai, the country’s largest pastoral people. The Yaaku eventually assimilated into Masai culture, adopting the Masai tongue over their own Cushitic language.

Did you know Afro-Bolivians are still around today?

Afro-Bolivians are descendants of the enslaved West Africans brought by the Spanish between the 16th and 19th Centuries to work in the mines of Potosí, a city in south-western Bolivia that was more populated than London in the early 17th Century. According to Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano, the mines are notorious for claiming the lives of roughly 8 million enslaved indigenous South Americans and Africans over a 300-year period – many of whom died as a result of being overworked, underfed and suffering in the region’s extreme cold.

It is believed that the natives thought that darker skin was more attractive, which is why they were impressed with the skin of the Africans when they first began arriving to Bolivia. For this reason, it is no surprise that many of the Afro-Bolivians would intermarry with the Aymara, adopt many of their cultural elements such as their style of dressing, and even become an Aymaran speaking subculture.

Afro-Bolivian Royalty

According to the latest Bolivian census in 2012, more than 23,000 people identify as Afro-Bolivians and most of their roots and even King Pinedo are in the Yungas.

The Afro-Bolivian Royal House is referred to as a ceremonial monarchy. It wasn’t until 2007 that the tribe was officially recognized by the Bolivian state as a kingdom and Piñedo was finally acknowledged as king— despite a history that spans more than 500 years.

Piñedo discovered that he was a descendant of Bonifaz, a tribal king from Senegal. Before Bonifaz was Prince Uchicho, who is regarded as the founder of the Afro-Bolivian monarchy.

The trajectory of Prince Uchicho’s life changed after he was enslaved by the Spanish. He was a prince of the ancient Kingdom of Kongo, a kingdom that has a history from the early 1300s and survived until 1914.  When the kingdom came in contact with Portuguese traders, it became a source of African slaves.

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Prince Uchicho became enslaved in Bolivia after a struggle for the throne with competing sons and chiefs. When he arrived, he was quickly recognized by other slaves because of his body decoration.  The royalty of the Kongo Kingdom was known for their royal tribal markings on their torso to set them apart from others.

Uchicho was chosen as the leader among Enslaved Africans and recognized as a king in their new home of Bolivia in 1823, which ultimately, began the lineage of the Afro-Bolivian monarchy. He was succeeded by his son, Bonifaz Pinedo: a name he took from the plantation owner. It’s the name still used by the Afro-Bolivian royalty today.

Julio Piñedo is a different kind of king. He isn’t dressed in a silk robe giving out orders. In fact, he’s a farmer and like so many others in Mururata, you will find him tending to his crops.

King Piñedo and Queen Larrea have a son, Prince Rolando—  a law student at the Universidad de Los Andes in La Paz. His major is reportedly influenced by his father’s impact and potential role as the future king.

 “I would like to keep pushing forward to make the Afro-Bolivian community more recognized and visible, the way my father has done until now,” he said in a statement.

Senegalese citizens staged a widespread demonstration against Macky Sall‘s administration, which kidnapped opposition leader Ousman Sonko on his way to a court hearing two days ago .

Sonko, is a 46-year-old leader of the opposition Pastef party and a former presidential candidate who finished third in the 2019 elections. His political career was cast into doubt last month when an employee at a spa where he claimed to have gone for back massages filed rape charges against him.

Sonko’s recent arrest has triggered “the worst unrest seen in the capital of Senegal in years”. Leader of the Pastef Les Patriotes party and a former presidential candidate, Sonko is seen as a formidable opposition figure to current President Macky Sall especially with elections in three years’ time. France24 reports that there is continued uncertainty as to whether President Sall will seek a third term in office.

According to him, the accusation of rape is an “attempt at political liquidation,” as he accused President Macky Sall of fomenting a political conspiracy against him. Despite the fact that the young woman accusing Ousmane Sonko of rape testified in a closed court hearing last month, her case is yet to be resolved.

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“Ousmane Sonko was heading towards the court following a summons from the judicial authority when he was arbitrarily arrested due to the presence on his route of demonstrators and sympathizers. The charges of disturbing public order and unauthorized demonstration against him must be dropped and, as long as these are the only charges justifying his detention, he must be immediately released, along with the three individuals who were arrested in same time as him, ”said Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s regional director for West and Central Africa.

Senegal is one of the very few stable African democracies and the country has never experienced a coup. But the ongoing protests, vocally supported by opposition political parties as well as some in civil society, are the worst in years. As of Saturday, March 6, reports say some five people have been killed with many protesters and police injured. What started as a call for the release of Sonko is now about socioeconomics, as clearly seen on placards and posters. Unemployment is high in Senegal while the strains brought about by COVID-19 have devastated the informal sector.

Authorities in France have opened an investigation into the sudden disappearance of Diary Sow, a 20-year-old Senegalese student who was enrolled at the prestigious Lycée Louis-le-Grand high school in Paris

She was crowned the country’s “best student” twice, once in 2018 and again in 2019. Sow excelled in literature and science, and her merit is what landed her a spot in high school Lycée Louis-Le-Grand— one of the most prestigious schools in Paris.

She made her community proud. Sow’s worrying disappearance has raised concerns both back home as well as in France.

Following her disappearance, the Senegalese community in France has been posting a missing person flyer on social media with her image and details in a bid to gather clues and information on her possible whereabouts. The Senegalese consulate in Paris also declared Sow missing on January 7, and the police subsequently opened a disappearance inquiry, France 24 reported.

“Neither her parents, nor her friends, nor her tutor, nor the embassy have had any news,” Daouda Mbaye, a member of the Senegalese community in Paris who arranged for the distribution of missing person flyers with Sow’s details, told AFP.

“She is a punctual pupil, very serious, and the alert went out quickly. No one had seen her; she wasn’t in her apartment [student residence],” Henry Sarr, a member of a Senegalese students’ association that launched a social media campaign on Sow’s disappearance, also told the news outlet.

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Back home in Senegal, the media have also been reporting Sow’s disappearance. The 20-year-old won the West African nation’s “Best Student” award in 2018 and 2019, and also published a novel last year, according to France 24.

There’s currently a hashtag circulating on various social media platforms to spread the word about Sow’s disappearance #RetrouvonsDiarySow, or Let’s Find Diary Sow.

Source: face2faceafrica.com

Located in what is now Senegal and parts of Mauritania, the Waalo kingdom was one of the strongest and oldest kingdoms in Senegal existing since the 11th century. Before the invasion of the Arabs, the people practised the matrilineal system which gave women equal rights and privileges as men.

When the French arrived in Senegal in 1855 to colonize it, the first resistance force they encountered was a woman. Her name: Ndaté Yalla Mboj.Ndate Yalla Mbodj, a ultima grande rainha do Senegal | African royalty,  Black history facts, Western historical

On October 1, 1846, Princess Ndaté Yalla Mbodj became Queen of the Waalo (Wolof) Kingdom after the death of her older sister Queen Ndjeumbeut Mbodj who had ruled since she was a teenager after the death of their father King Amar Fatim Borso Mbodj.

Although her ascension to the throne was easy, her rule fast became a tireless one in her determination to preserve what was left of the kingdom while protecting her people from the Moors, French and Arabs who wanted to take their lands and totally colonize the kingdom. Despite being an overwhelming task, Queen Ndaté was able to lead her military into war.

Her first major and successful task as a Queen was in 1876 when she opposed the free passage of the Sarakolé people by sending a letter to the governor expressing her willingness to defend the respect of her sovereignty.

“The purpose of this letter is to let you know that the island of Mboyo belongs to me from my grandfather to me. Today, there is no one who can say that this country belongs to him, he is mine alone.

Ndaté therefore considered himself the sole ruler of the Kingdom of Waalo and throughout her reign she would challenge the French and wage a bitter battle against them. In 1847 she demanded the free passage of the population of the Saraokés who supplied the Island of St-Louis with cattle. In her letter to the governor, she writes:

“It is we who guarantee the passage of herds in our country; for this reason we take the tenth and we will never accept anything other than that. St Louis belongs to the Governor, Cayor to Damel and Waalo to Brack. Each of these leaders governs his country as he sees fit

Ndaté will not hesitate to plunder around St Louis and threaten verbally or by correspondence the Governor. The French will demand a refund of the damage caused by the looting and Ndatté will refuse categorically and proudly.

 

This is how it ends up making its rights to the Island of Mboyo and the Island of Sor prevail (current city of St Louis).

On November 5, 1850 Ndaté banned all trade in the backwaters of its outbuilding and pushed the French to the end of what they could bear. Faidherbe orders a battle against the Waloo troops who this time do not resist against the technological power of the enemy

In 1855, Queen Ndaté was faced with a French army of over 1500 men who planned to take over her Kingdom, dethrone her and colonize the Waalo which would make them have total control over Senegal.

Senegalese Traditional Wrestling also known as “Laamb” in Wolof

Before then, the Queen had led several successful battles against both the Moors and the French and although her army made up of both males and females was small, the Queen led them against the French. Before going to war, the Queen gave a famous speech to her army saying:

Today, we are invaded by the conquerors. Our army is in disarray. The tiedos of the Waalo, as brave warriors as they are, have almost all fallen under the enemy’s bullets. The invader is stronger than us, I know, but should we abandon the Waalo to foreign hands?” “This country is mine alone!

The Queen’s brave army was no match to the French and she lost the first battle. She led her army to sneak up on the French and defeat them thereby starting the Senegal War of Resistance which continued way into the 20th century.

Queen Ndaté was able to fight off the Arabs and her battles led to the creation of Senegambia. She was captured by the French and exiled into the north of Senegal in Ndimb where she remained until she died in 1860.

Although by the time of her exile the Kingdom was in ruins, her son, Sidya Leon Diop took over the throne and continued the war until he too was captured and exiled in Gabon in 1878.

To date, Queen Ndaté Yalla Mbodj remains a symbol of resistance in Senegal. A statue of the Queen can be found in Dagana, in north Senegal that was made in her honor.

If you go to Senegal you will certainly come across the sport known as Laamb. This is the traditional form of wrestling originally performed by the Serer people and is now a national sport in Senegal & parts of the Gambia.

Its roots come from the wrestling tradition of the Serer people and was used as a preparation ritual for war among the warrior class. Today the sport is practiced by both men & women from all tribes in Senegal and enjoys patronage from both domestic and international sponsors.

A contest between two men dressed in loincloths and decked in talismans. The winner is whoever puts his opponent on the ground, whether on his back, rear, stomach, or a combination of hands and knees. It is an old sport, fought in the sand, steeped in deep, village traditions. But in the last decade, this pastime has evolved into an outsized spectacle, widely televised; its champions have become wealthy celebrities with a greater claim on people’s hearts than any president or businessman. Professional wrestler can earn hundreds to thousands of dollars in endorsements, according to the local news media.

During the ceremony, the wrestler, accompanied by drummers and singers, dances around the arena; around his arms, legs, and waist are various kinds of amulets the purpose of which is to give him luck and also protect him against the charms of his opponent.

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Today, the combination of legend, money and mysticism has made laamb a cradle for heroes and the ambition of every boy in Senegal.it used to be practised in the countryside at the end of the harvest, amongst the Serer and Diola ethnic groups. Wrestlers face up to each other, and the winner is the one who causes his adversary to fall to the ground first. This jousting battle used to be a means of measuring the strength of men, to determine the champion of each village.

It was practiced to rejoice, perpetuate cultural folklore, and to designate the strongest man of the village who will become the champion wrestler until the next year.

During French colonization of Senegal, these fights continued to take place in the bush, without the occupiers really knowing much about them. However it was a Frenchman who organized the first official fights in the 1920’s in his cinema El Malik in the capital, Dakar. The wrestlers were paid thanks to ticket sales. It was around this time that a form of the sport began in which wrestlers could also hit their opponents (wrestling with strikes).
After independence, this form of the sport slowly became professional and took hold in towns and cities.Senegalese Traditional wrestling laamb

Why Laamb is really fascinating is that it is further evidence of a growing trend on the continent where we are beginning to look within ourselves, embrace some of our unique cultures and find ways to grow them locally and then internationally. It is Africans refusing the rhetoric that arts and culture on the continent never existed before colonialism, that the most interesting thing about our countries is colonial history and post-colonial struggles and that the only good things to be found in our countries are those we got from the West. There is a cultural revolution taking over the continent – one that has started with music and literature and is spreading into even more aspects of our cultural heritage. We need to realize that even across the different African countries, people hunger to know more about other African countries. My education system taught me little other than we had some kingdoms, then we enslaved each other, then Arabs and the West came and took slavery to another level, then colonialism happened, we put up a good fight (The Battle of Adowa, Mau Mau rebellion, and so many other not so successful rebellions including using some magical potions that were to ward off bullets (Maji Maji rebellion). After that the colonial powers left us to our own defenses and we made a mess out of everything – descending into war, famine, disease etc. The West then came back to save us in various forms and anything good or interesting taking place on the continent right now is because of the benevolence of the West.

We as Africans need to change this rhetoric – and what better way to do that than owning and embracing our unique cultures, discovering them and monetising them (Laamb attracts numerous corporate sponsors, but has still managed to remain authentic.)

Laamb in Senegal is a must see

I recently did a DNA test with 23andMe and then travelled to Senegal, West Africa based on the results.  If you’re thinking of doing a DNA test, this is my experience.

“Your reports are ready”.

My heart skipped at the sight of the four bolded words in the subject line of my email inbox. I hurriedly moved my fingers across the trackpad of my laptop, then double-clicked the message to open it.