Senegal is a country situated in western part of Africa. Since it is located at the westernmost point of the continent it served by multiple air and maritime travel routes. This is why, Senegal is also known as the “Gateway to Africa.” The national heritage of the country was chosen from its rich natural heritage: the baobab tree and the lion; due to the ecological boundary of semiarid grassland, oceanfront, and tropical rainforest converge.
At the early point of European contact, when England, France, Portugal, and the Netherlands also contested by, Senegal was long a part of the ancient Ghana and Djolof kingdoms. It was a colony of France until 1960, under the leadership of the writer and statesman Léopold Senghor, Senegal gained its independence.
Most of the people of Senegal are Wolof, members of a highly stratified society whose traditional structure includes hereditary nobility and a class of musicians and storytellers called griots. Wolof and other Senegalese groups like the Fulani, the Serer, the Diola, and the Malinke, influence the music and other arts of their culture. Dakar, the most important city of Senegal, is an important harbour harbours and an economic and cultural centre for West Africa as a whole. It is very lively and attractive since it’s a popular tourist destination.
Literature, graphics arts, performance arts depicts a lot of the country’s history, religious, cultural and strong traditions. The artists are self-supporting and are forced to seek markets outside the country.
African people are known for their cheerfulness and their good mood. With no doubt, Senegalese people must draw on their happiness from their sunny suits.
The Senegalese people like dressing up for the holidays and celebrations in bright colours. The boubou is the classic Senegalese robe, worn by both men and women. The word “boubou” comes from the Wolof mbubbe.
It is sewn from a single piece of fabric, and is usually 59 inches wide and of varying lengths. The most elegant style, the grand boubou, usually employs a piece of fabric 117 inches (300 cm) long and reaches to the ankles.
The boubou is made by folding the fabric in half, fashioning a neck opening, and sewing the sides halfway up to make flowing sleeves. For women the neck is large and rounded; for men it forms a long V-shape, usually with a large five-sided pocket cutting off the tip of the “V.” It gives its wearer an elegant, stately and majestic in height and presence appearance. Men wear it with a matching shirt and trousers underneath. Women wear it with a matching wrapper or pagne and head-tie. Tailors specialized in making boubous also invest their skill in embroidery. Usually, it is done on with cotton damask, called basin. It is hand dyed in rich hues by women dyers and is available in the market in several grades of quality. The embroidery designs are created on the fabric by the tailor on small sewing machines. Traditionally is used to be embroidered in white or beige but later multi-colored embroidery with intricate designs and vibrant hues were introduced. The exception for men is a white voluminous boubou with gold embroidery. This is the special costume for the Muslim who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca. It thus connotes wealth, prestige, and piety.
Non-embroidered fabrications includes basin resist-dyed. For stitch-resist or tie-dyes, designs can be large enough to use one motif for the whole boubou, or small enough to demand thousands of tiny stitches in a fine repeated motif. It takes a group of women three months to sew the stitches before dyeing and three months to cut them out with a razor afterward. Techniques also include starch resist or wax resist. One technique, called indigo palmann, uses indigo in such a way as to dye the fabric a rich, deep bronze hue. Although a solid color, the indigo palmann boubou is so resplendent in its simplicity that it forgoes embroidery. For less elegant occasions, women have boubous made of Holland wax print or of imitation wax print called légos.
The most widely used woven fabric by locals of Senegal is produced by Manjak weavers, who belong to the ethnic group of the same name. But despite their renown within the region, the Manjak community is very small. The presence of Manjak weaving in West Africa dates far back to the height of the slave trade, when Manjak weavers were held captive in Cape Verde, bringing them into direct contact with the Portuguese.
The Manjak weaving tradition is slowly fading. Weavers complain that it is hard work that does not pay well. The value of the Manjak fabric lies not just in the weaving technique, but also in it’s ceremonial use marking the main rites of passage in a person’s life, particularly for women :
- As a bed sheet, to serve as a fertility aid when conceiving ;
- As a receiving blanket at birth ;
- As a symbol of the link between a newborn and its community at the time christening ;
- As a blanket, lining the cradle to protect the infant from sudden death ;
- As a wrap, to carry the baby on mother’s back ; the cloth, wrapped tightly around mother and baby, is believed to serve as a protection from mystical aggressions ;
- As a marriage veil ;
- As a form of comforting contact for the elderly ;
- And lastly, as a shroud in a person’s final moments of life.
The motif of the fabric – often images of animals or sacred trees, and geometric figures – add special meaning and value to the fabric. The motifs are normally named after the image they depict, though some may also bear the name of its designer.
Aside from its traditional uses, pagne tissé (including Manjak cloth specifically) has become a popular fabric for use in modern African fashion and home decor. In Senegal, Collé Ardo Sow and Aida Sene are well known for their clothing designs incorporating pagne tissé. And Aissa Dione’s renowned home accessories line highlights the fine detail of this fabric.
A fading tradition, a talisman bearing the history and culture of a group of people, an element of modern African design – Manjak fabric is many things. It is complex and beautiful, and above all an evocative cultural and historical link between past and present.
GOLD JEWELLERY OF SENEGAL
Senegalese women and the goldsmiths who adorn them absorb and transform global fashion trends, expressing their own complex identities while contributing to the realm of international fashion. Their styles and designs embrace change, yet remain resolutely local and grounded in history and tradition—a tradition and practice that involves constant innovation.
With the ever-increasing speed of communications in the contemporary global city, economic, cultural, and political competition have increased. Women have, in their world of changing possibilities, fought within and against these parameters to access, harness, and control the various fabrics of a globalized cityscape through jewelry and dress. In “performing” themselves, they perform—and shape—the city and the world. Throughout the last century, cross-cultural exchange of style has been evident in popular Senegalese jewelry. Shared techniques from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa alike have met and blended with indigenous Sahelian aesthetics for centuries.
Islam has been practiced in Senegal since at least the fourth century, and Islamic half-moons and stars are still employed in bracelets and rings. The popularized butterfly design, which manifests in almost all types of Senegalese jewelry, is borrowed primarily from French styles. The filigreed domes and tiny flowers seen in myriad works may be inspired by earlier Jewish forms, which penetrated North Africa as early as the 15th century, if not well before. These same forms, however, may reference the domes of Islamic mosques, or be purely decorative. The works here demonstrate some of the historic forms that have influenced the unique, transnational style that characterizes Senegalese jewelry.
Contemporary urban designers in Senegal use fashion to help navigate and define what is traditional, international, and chic. Sañse, a denser and culturally entangled concept or form involving ethical choices as well as aesthetic, is a style of design.