a literary and heritage treasure to be saved | EUROtoday

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Le Discourse on colonialism by Aimé Césaire devoted to his previous good friend, works by the Senegalese director and author Ousmane Sembène, the Martinican poet Joseph Zobel, the French poet Louis Aragon, annotated works by André Breton and Pierre Boutang in addition to these of his good friend René Maran, the primary black author to win the Goncourt Prize in 1921 and designated by Senghor because the precursor of negritude…, all literary works having belonged to the previous Senegalese president Léopold Sédar Senghor and showing among the many greater than 300 heaps placed on show public sale this April 16 on the Caen public sale home, France. Coming from his private library, together with a part of his work library, these works had been placed on sale by a member of the household of Colette Senghor, spouse of the previous president.

Information relayed by the Senegalese media however which didn’t actually provoke reactions from the Senegalese. “The populations are far removed from these considerations,” says Alioune Diaw, professor of contemporary literature on the Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar (UCAD). However, Senegalese but additionally French voices had been moved by the destiny of this distinctive heritage. The worldwide analysis group Léopold Sédar Senghor*, based in October 2022, and which brings collectively multidisciplinary researchers from UCAD in addition to ENS and CNRS in France, instantly wrote a plea for the safeguarding of Senghorian heritage, calling on The Senegalese state attracts consideration “on the urgent need to preserve and promote the heritage of the first president of Senegal and poet Léopold Sédar Senghor”. The convention of worldwide non-governmental organizations of the Francophonie (COING-OIF) additionally launched an enchantment to the Francophonie, to the Senegalese and French authorities “so that this wealth of public interest is preserved in the French-speaking area as a common good, to available to all”, emphasizing that the fund should join the Senegalese national collections or remain in the house of Verson des Senghor, in Normandy.

Safeguard national heritage

“Through the traces that he (Senghor) left and that he bequeathed to us, a whole part of Senegalese history and heritage appears and which risks disappearing again,” notes the plea. Indeed, the works on sale constitute a considerable literary and heritage treasure. “It is an immense heritage of inestimable value. More than a hundred lots are composed of major works of Senegalese, West African, Malagasy, Caribbean, African-American and French literature. The value of these is in the range of 5,000 to 8,000 euros,” reports Alioune Diaw, also a member of the international research group Léopold Sédar Senghor.

Works which bear witness to Senghorian negritude and which are also essential for understanding the thought and journey of Léopold Sédar Senghor, a multidimensional man. “These works are essential and fascinating for academic researchers because they tell us about the thread of his writing and give us insights into his friendships and connections. It would be a huge loss if they were dispersed,” insists Mr. Diaw, who recalls that “there cannot be pan-Africanism without being based on the memory of the men who made Senegal.” The president-poet indeed played a crucial role from a political point of view as the first president of independent Senegal, but also as a literary figure, through the negritude movement, as well as in the world of art. . “If Senegal is here today, if we have been able to rise on the world stage, it is thanks to culture, to the arts with the creation of the Festival of Negro Arts (1966), but also diplomacy that we owe to Senghor,” underlines Oumy Régina Sambou, cultural journalist.

Already in October 2023, an auction in France offered 41 objects (military decorations, jewelry and diplomatic gifts) from the Senghor couple. A rescue made at the last minute thanks to former president Macky Sall, who had the sale canceled and bought back the lots for a total cost of 244,000 euros. Integrated into the Senegalese national heritage, the lots must be distributed between the Senghor Museum and the Museum of African Civilizations, in Dakar.

But this time, the seller refused a private sale. Considered the spiritual son of Senghor, the poet Amadou Lamine Fall was able to communicate with the entourage of the new elected president, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, to “request a cancellation of the sale and negotiation for the purchase of the works”. But for lack of feedback – the new power was in the process of handing over and taking office – and given the time crunch, “the Senghor Foundation (based in Dakar), despite its limited means, scraped through its drawers to charge a person in Paris to buy as many books as possible during this sale and bring them back to Senegal,” explains the one who is a member of the board of directors of the Foundation.

Access to archives, a challenge for the future

Around thirty archives from and about Senghor have been identified by the international research group Léopold Sédar Senghor, mainly scattered between France and Senegal. “However, most of it is inaccessible to the Senegalese public,” informs the group, adding: “It is time that the Senegalese can freely access this heritage, without having to travel half the globe. » “Senegalese researchers are forced to travel abroad for their research on Senghor in the face of the few archives available locally. The largest archive on Senghor is in fact held by the French National Library,” explains Mr. Diaw. Several voices are therefore being raised to demand a return to Senegal of the lots on sale. The research group proposes that these works be preserved within the UCAD university library, which already has a René Maran collection. Beyond researchers, Mr. Diaw wants to believe that this will also allow “new generations, who tend to know him little, to better discover the first president of Senegal”. The professor of modern literature rejects the term “restitution”, arguing that there was no violence since it was Senghor himself who transported these works to France, but insists on the fact that this “heritage belongs to the Senegalese” and will due to this fact belong to them.

Beyond the sale, it’s the query of heritage archiving and that of heritage preservation which are raised. “There is no real archiving dynamic in Senegal: there is a lot of talk but few concrete actions. The contents of the projects and especially the means do not follow,” laments Oumy Régina Sambou, pointing the finger at successive governments, who’ve by no means made it a precedence in accordance with her. Several realities thus hinder archiving. “There is a sort of pejorative image with the idea of ​​boxes containing old documents. We are in Africa, where the culture of orality takes precedence, this affects our relationship with conservation. Some archives have been lost, intentionally, while there have been many losses due to the recurring problem of preservation. In fact, we do not have archive buildings that meet the standards to ensure optimal conservation. There can also quickly be a relationship of fetishism, with an appropriation of documents and objects rather than a desire to make them available to all,” explains Mr. Diaw. By launching a scientific undertaking of a analysis program initiated between the ENS, the CNRS and the UCAD, the worldwide analysis group Léopold Sédar Senghor is set to permit a renewal of research on Senghor and thus revisit the completely different sides of the poet president , founding father of the Francophonie and thinker of Africanness, through the archives.

* The hyperlink to the web site of the Léopold Sédar Senghor International Research Group: http://www.item.ens.fr/senghor/#:~: textual content = Fond % C3 % A9 % 20le % 201er % October 20, l