I have just returned from a week of field work in Senegal. While I have often done field work there, this time was different. First, I was joined by two other researchers for a team excursion. My two companions de voyage were Liora Bigon of the Holon Institute of Technology, a researcher I am collaborating with on a larger project about grid-planning in Senegal, and Michel Ben Arrous, an urbanist and geographer based in Bordeaux. Secondly,the fieldwork was funded by the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace. This is the first time I have had funding for field work. Actually, Liora did all the hard work of applying for and obtaining the research funds. Thank you Liora. Most importantly, this time my field excursion also benefited from the logistical support of IFAN-CAD (see previous post about my presentation at IFAN). This support included a large, comfortable vehicle driven Serigne Ndiaye, a most competent driver, and an extraordinarily enthusiastic and efficient research assistant, Modou Ndiaye, who is finishing his doctoral dissertation on planning in Diamnadio. I thank them all for making this such a successful trip.
Liora and I had devised a tight itinerary. I will admit that I was a bit skeptical that we could pull it all off and half-expected that a few of the planned things might not happen. I am glad to say that my misgivings were misplaced and that the work proceeded without a single hitch—in no small measure thanks to the support we got from IFAN-CAD.
I would like to share a few of the highlights from last month’s data gathering.
A tour of some of the Lebu pénc of Dakar
The Lebu are the original inhabitants of the Cap Vert Peninsula. Their local communities (originally village communities) have strong identities which have survived numerous episodes of déguerpissements (forced evictions) during the colonial era. Their ability to reproduce their village institutions (the pénc) in their new locales and then to maintain them in the face of acute real-estate pressure and urban growth is one of the ways these identities have survived until today. On Thursday 11 January Abdou Khadre Gaye, Director/President of Entente des Mouvements et Associations de Développement, a Lebu cultural development organization, led us on a tour of some of the most important Dakar péncs.
A tour of some of the grid-planned escale neighborhoods
On Saturday 13 January we left Dakar for a tour of some of the towns and cities where Sufi orders are most actively involved in urbanization. We had two objectives: to observe recent developments of the orders, and to photograph colonial-era urban spaces, the escale neighborhoods and their commercial and administrative architecture.
Senegal’s colonial-era escale neighborhoods are now mostly rundown. The buildings that have survived from that era are in need of restoration and/or rehabilitation. In the course of our field visits we were informed that government policies to these ends are being put in place, but the effects on the ground have yet to be seen.
Modernization of Sufi tarîqa neighborhoods
There has been no let-up in the urban projects of Senegal’s various Sufi orders. Many of these projects have received official support from the government’s “modernization of religious cities” program. Several Tijânî shrines have been modernized.
The Qâdirî shrine in Ndiassane is also being modernized.
Meanwhile in Touba, mosques are being rebuilt and enlarged in a new architectural style.
Ultimately, Liora and I will use the data collected on this trip in a co-authored book about urban planning we are preparing. Watch this space.