States of the Arts


Show at Documenta 12, Kassel

by Oumou Sy
Fashion show

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Oumou Sy is Senegal’s most renowned fashion designer, affectionately nicknamed ‘The Queen of Couture’. With her Documenta 12 fashion show, she exhibited examples of her métissage, or ‘mishmash’, approach to blending traditional fabrics with modern materials. Costumes of raffia and silk were worn alongside metal and vinyl. The event opened with Sy’s meticulously researched and crafted reproductions of historical monarchs’ regalia, drawing from the lives of slave-sellers and myths of golden snake tears. 

Words by Hugh Maloney


directed by Ababacar Samb Makharam
Feature film

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‘Jom’ is a Wolof word with no English equivalent. For Ababacar Samb Makharam, it means ‘courage, dignity, respect – it is the origin of all virtues’. The concept lies at the heart of the director’s final film, a time-travelling journey through Senegal’s collective memory, taking in legendary princes and twentieth-century entertainers. The stories are told by a griot, a West African itinerant poet, as he addresses a group of striking workers. As the griot tells of the righteousness of jom, Samb celebrates and reframes oral tradition within a cinematic context.

Words by Hugh Maloney

Nuit de Sine

by Léopold Sédar Senghor

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Léopold Sédar Senghor was the first President of Senegal, a renowned cultural theorist, and a prolific poet. ‘Nuit de Sine’ espouses the Négritude ideology, a response to colonialist racism co-conceived by Senghor, which proclaims shared values and identity among black Africans. The work’s pensive narrator relates his existential musings, as addressed to an unnamed woman. His ‘dark blood’ flows, Africa’s ‘deep pulse’ beats, and heritage is honoured, metaphorically rendered through union with deceased ancestry.

Words by Hugh Maloney

Cheikh Anta Mbacke

by Kiné Lam

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The first recording by a Senegalese woman to be released internationally, ‘Cheikh Anta Mbacke’ was made possible by MIDI innovations, which enabled the digital connection of computers to electronic instruments. Synthesisers and bass guitars were introduced into the studio ensemble, offering fresh timbres. Insistent, syncopated percussion and bright horn parts are here joined by decorative chimes and sustained keyboard chords. The new technological possibilities underpin the impassioned, improvisatory balladry of an experienced griotte.

Words by Hugh Maloney

More to discover

Fashion show at Documenta 12: Visit the Documenta 12 website for more information on Oumou Sy's show. View images from the show by A-C-K on Flickr. Read an article about Sy by The City Noise.

Jom: Watch the trailer here.

Nuit de Sine: Read the poem and a biography of Léopold Sédar Senghor on the Poetry Foundation website.

Cheikh Anta Mbacke: Listen to the song here.

Question of the day

Which Senegalese artworks would you recommend, and why? Let us know on Facebook, Patreon, or Twitter.

'Yo Lé Lé (Fulani Groove)', a song by Youssou N'Dour. After chanting the song's title as if a brooding mantra, N'Dour's tenor takes off above a polished brass section and a chatty drum. (→)

– Hugh Maloney, Silent Frame Sub-Editor (via Patreon →)

The films of Djibril Diop Mambéty and Ousmane Sembène.

– John Wadsworth, Silent Frame's Editor-in-Chief (via Facebook →)

Read more: States of the Arts (Africa)