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Present-day Senegal is home to a vibrant cultural milieu that, in many respects, is reflective of that which its first president, Léopold Sédar Senghor, and the Senegalese cultural eminences grises endeavored to promote during the early postcolonial period. As Elizabeth Harney has noted, Senghor “regarded art as a medium of change—a tool that could be used to advance his cultural, political, and economic development plans. Consequently, he envisioned the artist as a representative of and advocate for a new nation.” Today, there exists a burgeoning scene of young authors, artists, actors, and musicians who are continuing in this Senghorian cultural tradition by envisioning art as the means to produce social change, but who are also rethinking the type of nation and citizen that would be formed through this intersection of culture and politics. This is not Senghor’s Senegal however. For one thing, the country’s cultural production reflects the fact that over 63 percent of the population is under the age of twenty-five. Furthermore, whereas Senghor generously supported the arts and successfully channeled them to further political stability, Senegal in the twenty-first century has been marked by a more overt tension between politics and the arts. In fact, young Senegalese artists, authors, filmmakers, and musicians are reworking the relationship between politics and the arts to strike against the injustices and indifference they see as endemic to the social and political norms of contemporary Senegalese society.

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African Studies Quarterly





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Center for African Studies at the University of Florida


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