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Senegal: National Identity and the Arts

Senegal: National Identity and the Arts

Discover the enormous contribution to African arts and cultures made by Senegal, a country that has inspired centuries of poetry, music, literature, dance, and visual arts.

The program examines the complex social, economic, and political issues Senegal faces and takes a critical approach to Senegalese artistic and cultural forms — from traditional aesthetic expressions to modern notions of cosmopolitanism/afropolitanism and urban identities realized in new artistic formats such as hip-hop, street art, and graffiti. Students not only learn a variety of West African art forms and what they represent but also learn to create and perform them.

Major topics of study include:

  • Traditional West African music, rhythms, and storytelling
  • Challenges posed to women’s rights
  • The role of Islam in Senegalese life
  • Contemporary development
  • Education
 

Explore the role of performing and visual arts in shaping Senegalese society and identity.

Live and study in Dakar.

glass paintingThe program is based in Senegal’s capital and largest city, Dakar. Located on the Atlantic Coast, Dakar abounds with lively cultural activities and is home to well-known Senegalese musicians including Youssou N’Dour, Baaba Maal, Ismaël Lô, Coumba Gawlo, Daara J, Cheikh Lô, and Thione Seck.

The SIT program center is located in the neighborhood of Point E. The center is walking distance from Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar (UCAD) and a hub of NGOs working on a wide range of development issues ranging from refugees, to education, to HIV/AIDS. The SIT office is also close to major research centers such as the Baobab Center and CODESRIA. Students can easily access restaurants and internet cafés.

Gain direct exposure to the music, dance, traditions, and customs of Senegal’s different ethnic groups.

Although Senegal’s national identity is largely shaped by the Wolof, the country’s dominant ethnic group, Senegal is home to more than 26 different ethnic communities. Senegalese communities maintain robust cultural connections within West Africa and beyond the African continent, forging a cosmopolitanism that bridges national and ethnic borders.

Rural stays in the Wolof town of Mouit and in villages in the region of Kédougou reveal similarities and differences among Senegal’s different ethnic groups, the contrast between urban and rural cultures, and how tradition and modernity coexist side by side and how they find expression in emerging forms of arts and culture.

The program includes extended field visits to Saint-Louis, southeastern Senegal, and the Petite Côte as well as visits to Gorée Island, the Grand Mosque of Touba, Keur Moussa Benedictine Monastery, and Bandia Game Park.

Experience visual and performing arts workshops.

Students complete visual and performing arts workshops at the Village des Arts, an artists’ cooperative for visual art professionals. Students choose glass painting (peinture sous-verre), ceramics, bronze sculpture, or batik. The performing arts workshop focuses on dance and djembe drumming with additional advanced sessions in tama and kora. Students work closely with Senegalese artists, attend their exhibits, and visit their workshops. Some students have conducted their ISPs at an artist’s studio or workshop.

Build your own curriculum with course choice.bus

Students with a background in the visual and/or performing arts, or who would like the opportunity to delve further into a single Senegalese artistic tradition under the mentorship of a master practitioner, may choose to enroll in Visual and Performing Arts Studio. This elective, taken instead of either French or Wolof, requires independent studio work in the visual or performing arts. Based on student interest, our Senegalese staff work to pair you with a master craftsperson/practitioner. Options typically include: sculpture, ceramics, painting, bronze, sous-verre, batik, furniture-making, dance, music, instrument-building, fashion design, photography, film, or theatre. This elective offers students the opportunity to work, in depth, under the guidance of master practitioners, in a studio setting in Dakar.

Improve your French while learning Wolof.

Through the program’s thematic seminar, taught mainly in French, and the intensive French language course, students can greatly improve their French language skills. At the same time, students gain greater access and insight into their host communities by learning Wolof, the most widely spoken language in Senegal. Special language workshops on practical aspects of Senegalese life, such as cooking ceebujën and having clothing made at the tailor, help students function in everyday situations.

Independent Study Project

Students spend four weeks near the end of the semester working on an Independent Study Project (ISP), pursuing original research on a selected topic of interest. The ISP is conducted in Dakar or in another approved location appropriate to the project.

Sample topic areas include:

  • Learning to play kora and analyzing its transitional role in modern Senegalese music
  • The preservations of oral traditions in Senegalese literature
  • The reconstruction of Senegalese identity through hip-hop music, performance, and commercialization
  • Wolof women’s songs as performances of resistance

Creative and alternative ISP projects have included:

  • A short documentary film highlighting Senegalese female artists
  • Choreography and performance of traditional West African dances
  • Creative writing memoir portraying a Korean-American’s experience in Senegalese culture

Prerequisites:

Three recent semesters of college level French or equivalent and the ability to follow coursework in French, as assessed by SIT.

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The Arts, Identities, and Urban Cultures seminar, conducted primarily in French, promotes an understanding of Senegalese art as a window for viewing the country's rich, varied, and evolving culture and identities. Over the course of the semester, students learn not only to appreciate various art forms and what they represent, but to create and perform them as well. Students also examine the complex social, political, and economic issues facing Senegal today.

The French in the Senegalese Context language course builds students’ capacities through a focus on the rich and diverse Senegalese cultural and artistic production in French. The Intensive Language Study in Wolof course offers unique insight into Senegal. The Research Methods and Ethics in the Arts seminar focuses on culturally appropriate, ethical field methodology in preparation for the Independent Study Project (ISP).

Links to syllabi below are from current and forthcoming courses offered on this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Arts, Identities, and Urban Cultures in Senegal - syllabus
(AFRS 3000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
A thematic, interdisciplinary course conducted primarily in French, exploring Senegalese arts, identities, and urban cultures through nationalist and cosmopolitan/afropolitan lenses. The seminar examines the prominent role played by the performing and visual arts in shaping Senegalese society and identity, and the emergence of forms of artistic expression beyond traditional/nontraditional and urban/rural binaries. Resources utilized in the delivery of course content include Université Cheikh Anta Diop (University of Dakar), the Senegalese Ministry of Culture, the Media Centre of Dakar, and the Réseau Africain du Développement Integré (RADI).

Research Methods and Ethics in the Arts - syllabus
(ANTH 3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Conducted primarily in English, this is a course in the concepts of learning across cultures and from field experience. The seminar provides an introduction to the Independent Study Project and related material including cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project selection and refinement; appropriate methodologies; field study ethics and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy; developing contacts and finding resources; developing skills in observation and interviewing; gathering, organizing, and communicating data; and maintaining a field journal.

Independent Study Project - syllabus
(ISPR 3000 / 4 credits / 120 class hours)
Conducted in Dakar or in another approved location appropriate to the project. Sample topic areas: ethnomusicology and study of traditional instruments; role of dance in the ceremonies of the Serer; social meaning of traditional dress in modern Senegal; industrial and traditional fabric dying and design; griots (musicians, historians, royal advisors); Senegalese film as a cultural statement; the work of the Sorano National Theater; the artists of Gorée Island; cultural identity and religion; the tama or talking drum; women and craft production; contemporary Senegalese music.

 

Plus choice of two of the following three courses:

Visual and Performing Arts Studio - syllabus
(ARTS 2000/3000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
This elective course requires independent studio work in the visual or performing arts, typically including a choice of the following options: sculpture, ceramics, painting, bronze, sous-verre, batik, furniture-making, dance, music, instrument-building, fashion design, photography, film, or theatre. These studios offer students the opportunity to work, in depth, under the guidance of master practitioners, in a studio setting in Dakar. The course culminates in an exhibition of student creative work and an evening of public performances, as well as in the production of arts journals documenting reflections and analyses of music, dance or theatre performances or visual arts exhibitions.

French in the Senegalese Context - syllabus
(FREN 2000–2500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
French in the Senegalese Context - syllabus  – en français
(FREN 2000–2500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours
French in the Senegalese Context - syllabus
(FREN 3000–3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
French in the Senegalese Context - syllabus  – en français
(FREN 3000–3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Focusing on the rich and diverse Senegalese cultural and artistic production in French, this course enhances students’ oral proficiency through an emphasis on skills of interaction with local artists and cultural workers, and their immersion into everyday life. By studying postcolonial texts, students also learn about Senegalese oral culture and traditions, nation-building, and the dynamics of contemporary Senegalese society. In support of these objectives, course content provides additional focus on fundamentals of spoken and written French to increase student capacity. Based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students are placed in the appropriate level, with additional language practice in homestays and on field visits.

Intensive Language Study: Wolof - syllabus
(WOLO 1000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Emphasis on beginning oral comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. Language practice with host families during the homestays augments formal instruction.

Browse this program's Independent Study Projects/Undergraduate Research

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

fishermanKédougou: Ethnic Minorities Discovery

Kédougou is located in the southeastern part of Senegal, below the national park of Niokolo Koba. During this excursion, students stay among the traditional villages surrounding Kédougou, which are populated with diverse ethnic minorities, including: the Bedick, the Bassari, the Diallonkes, the Diakhanke, the Peul Fouta, and the Peul Bande.

Students explore this cultural diversity in music, dances, traditions, and customs through activities such as attending mask dances by a local ethnic group during their initiation ceremonies. This excursion includes important field research assignments.

Students also hike to the sacred baobab, one of the largest in Senegal, at Iwol, a Bedick village. Students then visit Dindefello and enjoy a two-kilometer hike to a spectacular waterfall with a deep pool at the bottom.

Saint Louis: The Historical and Colonial City

Saint-Louis is an excellent location for students to examine the colonial period in Senegal. Students attend lectures on concepts such as La Place de Saint-Louis dans l'Histoire Colonial du Sénégal and La Place de Saint-Louis dans la Litterature Senégalaise. While in Saint-Louis, students visit the National Ethnographic Museum and work on assignments that apply interviewing techniques, mapping, and sketching.

Gorée Island and the Slave House

Gorée Island was a busy slave-trading center during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Students visit a slave house and meet with a conservator on the slave trade period. Prior to the visit, students attend a lecture on development and poverty at the Gorée Institute, followed by a visit to a local women's organization. Students can visit the Historical Museum, la Musée de la Femme, and the community of artists who live and work on Gorée Island.

Souleye DialloSouleye Diallo, Academic Director

Souleye Diallo, a Senegalese national, graduated from the University Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar with a degree in English and literature. He earned an MA in sustainable development from SIT Graduate Institute in Vermont. He also holds certificates in program development, program management, peer counseling, crisis management, and training of trainers from the Peace Corps, and a certificate in intercultural communications from the Summer Institute in Intercultural Communications in Portland, Oregon. Having worked as a cross-cultural trainer and homestay coordinator for the US Peace Corps for many years, he has conducted various trainings of trainers in the West Africa region.

Prior to joining SIT, Souleye worked for the Church World Service/INS in the immigration and refugee resettlement program in sub-Saharan Africa. He also served as a consultant for Women's World Banking in the Gambia and the Christian Children's Fund in Dakar. During the academic year 2001–2002, Souleye served as SIT Graduate Institute's ombudsperson. He joined SIT Study Abroad as the academic director in Senegal in the fall of 2002.

Bouna FallPapa Bouna Fall, Academic Assistant and Homestay Coordinator

Papa Bouna Fall, fondly known as Bouna to his SIT students, graduated from the University Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar with degrees in British literature and foreign relations. He continued his studies in France and earned a master's degree in applied foreign languages (English and Spanish) and a certificate in business from the Franco-British Chamber of Commerce and Industry, based in Paris. He also completed an internship in England. Bouna also holds a master's degree in teaching from SIT Graduate Institute.

Bouna has taught ESL at various levels for many years. He began his teaching career in 1984 as a high school teacher, and today he continues to serve as a language instructor at college and university levels in Dakar. Since 1993, he has worked as a freelance translator for several NGOs and other institutions such as the World Bank, USAID, and Amnesty International. He loves an array of outdoor activities including hiking, soccer, jogging, table tennis, and excursions. A dedicated multi-culturalist, he speaks French, English, Spanish, Wolof, and Bambara. He is very interested in current affairs and intercultural communication and believes travel helps increase global awareness.

In his capacity as academic assistant, Bouna teaches and coordinates the Research Methods and Ethics seminar, prepares and advises students during their ISPs, and grades assignments. He is also the program's homestay coordinator and has served as the program assistant for SIT in Senegal in the past. Bouna frequently accompanies students on excursions to Senegalese villages.

SibyAminata Siby, Student Affairs Coordinator

Amy completed her studies in American literature and culture at the University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar in 1992. Family and hospitality are very important to Amy, and these two aspects of Senegalese life are what initially brought Amy to SIT in 2003 as a host mother. After hosting SIT students for three years, Amy began as the program's homestay coordinator and eventually transitioned to student affairs coordinator. Each semester, Amy works hard to ensure that students are adjusting to life in Senegal, particularly within the context of their host families.

In addition to serving as an excellent resource for students, particularly on matters relating to life in Dakar, Amy provides administrative assistance to the rest of the SIT Senegal staff. Amy frequently accompanies the students on excursions in and around Dakar.

IbrahimaIbrahima Ndiaye, Language Instructor

Ibrahima was born and grew up in Thiès, 70 kilometers outside of Dakar. He spent his summers pursuing religious education in Dakar. He completed the first portion of his formal education in Thiès, after which he moved to Dakar to study law at the University Cheikh Anta Diop. In addition to his degree in law, he holds certificates in education, Wolof, Wolof instruction, and business administration. Before he began teaching with SIT in 2010, he worked with the Peace Corps, Japan International Cooperation Agency, and Korean International Cooperation Agency. He currently works as a French and Wolof instructor for SIT Study Abroad and also provides private language instruction for individuals and organizations. In his free time, Ibrahima enjoys watching documentary films, cooking, reading, playing sports, nature, and music. He speaks French and Wolof.

KandjiFatou Kandji, Language Instructor

Fatou Kandji specializes in intercultural and international teaching and has many years of experience working with Japanese and American undergraduate students as well as Peace Corps volunteers in Senegal. After attending private Catholic elementary school and public high school in the city of Thiès, Fatou continued her education at the University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, where she studied law. In 1994, she returned to Thiès to care for her mother. During this time, she completed Peace Corps certification as a French and Wolof teacher and started working with the Peace Corps and JICA to develop the language skills of volunteers. Additionally, Fatou worked in insurance marketing for three years and is currently in the process of writing a memoir for her bachelor of business administration with a focus on intercultural communication. She has been teaching language courses with SIT since 2006, as well as performing additional institutional teaching and work as a research assistant and translator in Dakar.

KebaKeba Djibril Mané, Language Instructor

Hailing from the Casamance, Keba was born and raised in Velingara, a city in southern Senegal, until his studies brought him to Dakar. He spent four years studying at the University Cheikh Anta Diop and teaching high school history, geography, French, and Spanish until financial obligations forced him to withdraw from university and focus solely on teaching. During this time he also taught in a primary school's tutoring and enrichment program. Keba taught Mandinka and Pulaar for the Peace Corps in Thies until the events of September 11, 2001, caused a temporary suspension of Peace Corps operations in Senegal. He has been working with SIT in Dakar since 2002.

As a professional musician, Keba plays with several bands, most notably Ndoukouman. He also takes on freelance work including work for some of Senegal's more famous musical acts.

Bineta FallMame Bineta Fall, Language Instructor

Mame Bineta Fall is a native of Dakar. She was born and raised in the suburb of Rufisque where she currently lives with her family. Mame studied English, French, and Spanish in the Applied Foreign Languages program at the University Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar. She also received training as a language teacher with the Peace Corps, with which she worked for two years before coming to work for SIT in 2002. Since then, she has taught French and Wolof to students at SIT. She has also taught volunteers with JICA and gives private language lessons to volunteers and expatriates. In her free time, she enjoys reading mystery and science fiction novels.

Benedict "Papis" Bassene, Office Manager

Papis is originally from the region of Kédougou, though he grew up mostly in Kaolack and Dakar. He received a degree in applied linguistics in the English Department of the University of Gaston Berger in Saint Louis. Before joining SIT, Papis utilized his interpersonal and technical skills volunteering for the Spanish Humanist Movement, a nongovernmental organization aimed at supporting local grassroots community building projects. It was here that Papis began developing an interest in intercultural experience and learning while he served as an interpreter and project planner. In addition to his duties as office manager with the SIT Senegal program, he also teaches English at professional schools in Dakar. Papis enjoys sports, spending time with his daughter, and reading.

Lecturers for this program include:

Dr. Mbacké Diagne

Dr. Mbacké Diagne is a linguist, researcher, and instructor of French and English languages. Dr. Diagne earned a PhD in linguistics at the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (Paris) in 2009. In addition to his teaching and advising on SIT’s Senegal: National Identity and the Arts program, Dr. Diagne has extensive teaching and research experience with l’Ecole Normale Supérieure de Dakar and Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar and has served the Senegalese Ministry of Education as a member of the national technical team of Project ELAN (Ecole et Langues Nationales) focusing on improvement of primary-level French language instruction in Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Mali, Niger, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Senegal. Dr. Diagne’s professional experience in language research and advocacy also includes serving as a member of the Sénélangues project, an effort by France’s Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and the Language, Langue, et Cultures d’Afrique Noire (LLCAN), whose main objective was to document and describe approximately 20 of Senegal’s most threatened languages. Dr. Diagne has widely published and disseminated work on issues of pedagogy and the question of minority and threatened languages in the region. Among Dr. Diagne’s distinctions is that of being honored with the titled of Chevalier de l’Ordre national du Lion from the government of Senegal. He is a member of the SIT Senegal local review board.

Moussa Diouf

Moussa Diouf is a lecturer with nearly three decades’ experience in instructing both English and French languages. Having earned both master’s and bachelor’s degrees at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Mr. Diouf has gone on to earn further qualifications in a variety of pedagogical skill areas including in-service training, interpersonal communication, and English language training. In addition to his work with SIT’s Senegal: National Identity and the Arts program, his professional experience includes directorship of the English Language Institute (ELI) in Dakar and the English Language for Internationals program at Suffolk University in Dakar as well as coordination of the British Senegalese Institute Regional Center. He currently serves as president of the Association of Teachers of English in Senegal (a professional organization affiliated with TESOL and IATEFL), was former secretary for the pedagogic affairs of the Association of Teachers of English in Senegal, and maintains membership in professional organizations including TESOL and IATEFL. He is a member of the SIT Senegal local review board.

danceStudents live for six weeks with a Senegalese family in Dakar and also have two shorter homestays (approximately 3–4 days each) in rural areas of the country. During the homestays, students are typically placed in clusters — for instance, two or three students in the same neighborhood or in the same village hamlet.

Experience Senegalese daily life and special cultural events while living in Dakar.

Students typically share numerous activities with their host families, including going to the local market, tailor, neighborhood boutiques, or beach. They may also attend sporting events (soccer or wrestling matches) or concerts with their host parents or siblings. Students may also be invited to naming ceremonies, marriages, and Muslim holiday celebrations such as Tabaski and Korité. Some students have attended religious seminars/gatherings with members of their host family.

In living with host families, students experience the realities of Senegalese daily life and learn about family dynamics, including family structure, gender roles, eating habits, household chores, waste disposal systems, notions of space and concepts of belonging, education of children, and celebrations and other rituals. The homestays also provide an excellent opportunity for students to immerse themselves in French and Wolof, the primary languages of Senegal.

Most host families are considered middle-class by Senegalese standards and represent different professions, including nurses, merchants/business owners, retired army officers, teachers, and tailors. Some host families may be walking distance to the SIT program center in Dakar, while others may be 20–30 minutes away by bus. Most, but not all, host families have children. If there are no children in the host family, there are usually children in neighboring families. Students often visit each other’s host families.

homestayRural stays

Village stays include the Wolof eco-village of Mouit on the Senegalese coast near Saint Louis. Mouit is part of the Langue de Barbarie Bird Park, and some students may be placed with eco-guard volunteers for their homestay. During the stay in Mouit, students take a boat ride along the mouth of the river Senegal where various bird species come to nest. Students may also become involved in community activities during the rural stay.

In the second rural homestay students typically live in different villages outside the town of Kédougou in southeast Senegal.

The homestays are an essential part of the program, providing students with a unique opportunity to experience Senegalese culture and improve language skills through daily interaction with host family members.

Other accommodations during the program may include guest houses, educational institutions, or small hotels.

Program Dates: Spring 2015

Program Start Date:  Feb 1, 2015

Program End Date:    May 16, 2015

The dates listed above are subject to change. Please note that travel to and from the program site may span a period of more than one day.

Student applications to this program will be reviewed on a rolling basis between the opening date and the deadline.

Application Deadline:   Nov 1, 2014

 

SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to all students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding; this award can be applied to any SIT semester program. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.

Tuition: $14,420

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Cost of all lecturers and art practicioners who provide instruction to students in:
    • Arts, Identities, and Urban Cultures in Senegal seminar
    • Visual and Performing Arts Studio elective
  • Research Methods and Ethics in the Arts course on field study methods and Human Subjects Review
  • Intensive language instruction in French
  • Intensive language instruction in Wolof
  • All educational excursions to locations such as Gorée Island, Saint-Louis, eastern Senegal, and the Petite Côte, including all related travel costs
  • Independent Study Project (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
  • Health insurance throughout the entire program period

Room & Board:$3,330

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

  • All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Dakar), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
  • All homestays (six weeks in Dakar and two four- or five-day rural homestays)
  • All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.

Estimated Additional Costs:

International Airfare

International airfares vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.

Visa Expenses: Not yet available.

Immunizations varies

Books & Supplies :$150

Discretionary Expenses

Personal expenses during a semester abroad vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region.  See a full list of our alumni contacts.  Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.

Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.

 

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