S E N E G A L: République du Sénégal external image green-star2.jpg

(The Republic of Senegal)

Motto: "Un Peuple, Un But, Une Foi" (french)

"One people, One Goal, One Faith"

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Location of Senegal and the Senegalese flag.

Personal Response: What is my culture?

Senegal is a beautiful country located in West Africa. Senegalese people are full of life, from the bright clothes they wear, to the loud fast-pace music they listen and dance to. Senegalese are brought up with strong values that guide them to be kind people. Senegal is home to many different culture groups because it is such an open and excepting society of other cultures. The largest culture croup in Senegal is the Wolof. The Wolof have a reputation for wit, elegant clothes, delicious cuisine, and physical beauty.

Family View
What I researched was very similar to what my family views as our culture. My mom is Senegalese and she has taught a lot of my our culture that I saw while researching about Senegal. I have been brought up to value respect for myself and others...especially elders. I've grown up eating foods like Wolof Rice, Yassa and Fataya. Music has always been very important to my family, we frequently listen to Senegalese music and artists like Youssou N'Dour. I also occasionally speak French, Wolof and Fulani. I can only say a few words in Wolof and Fulani. But I'm learning French at the moment.

Surface and Deep Culture
The bright boubou's Senegalese wear and the chicken yassa they eat are examples of surface culture. The music by Youssou N'Dour that they listen to and our strong values of dignity are examples of deep culture.

A common stereotype that people have about Senegalese people is that they are all farmers that live in huts. But that is not true, Senegal is one of the most developed areas in West Africa, their technology is getting better everyday and more and more people are being educated. There are many Senegalese men and woman who have jobs in business or as skilled workers, most people live in houses made of concrete. Although some people who live in rural areas are farmers and may have a hut as a small storage place, but that is not the case for all. I think the reason people have these stereotypes is because they are ignorant and are influenced by the negative things they see in the media. I have been to Senegal myself and it is a gorgeous country with warmhearted, loving people.

Cultural Universals

Beautiful clothes and elaborate ornaments are important to the Senegalese, and most people make an effort to require the best clothing and ornaments they can afford. Men wear baggy trousers, a boubou, a small cap, and sometimes a pagne. A boubou is a loose, light flowing robe with long sleeves. A pagne is a length of cloth wrapped around the hip with a short sleeve shirt. Officials and businessmen in the cities might wear European dress during the day and change to a boubou at home in the evening. Younger men are more likely to wear western-style clothing. Wolof women are known for their love of fashion and ornamentation. Women wear a different like of boubou made of bright cotton and elaborately trimmed with embroidery or silk. They also wear many accessories including: jeweled amulets, necklaces and gold earrings. When working around the house women wear a blouse and a pagne or a long,loose cotton dress.

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Senegalese men and women dressed in boubou's.

Music is a very important part of Senegalese life, people love to sing songs and dance to music. The art of drumming is highly respected and very popular. A famal drum is shaped like an hourglass and held under the arm, varying the pressure of the arm produces different tones. Other traditional instruments include the balafon, kora and xalam. The balafon is a xylophone made of wooden gourd. The kora is a 21-stringed harp-like instrument. The xalam consists of a resonator (usually made of gourd) over which cowhide is stretched, most have 5 strings but the molo has only 1 string. Popular Senegalese music has been heavily influenced by American, French and Cuban music. Popular artists Youssour N'Dour, Baaba Maal, and Touré Kunda have achieved enormous success both in Senegal and abroad, they've created their own unique Senegalese style of music.
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Youssou N'Dour

Youssou N'Dour was born in Dakar (Senegal's capital) in 1959 and began performing as a child in neighborhood gatherings. He helped develop a style of popular music in Senegal called mbalax. Mbalax is a blend of the country's traditional griot percussion and praise-singing with the Afro-Cuban and Haitian kompa arrangement. His album Eyes Open won a Grammy Award. Rolling Stone described Youssou N'Dour as, in Senegal and much of Africa, "perhaps the most famous singer alive."
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Youssou N'Dour singing.

The average meal consists of rice with fish (cheb-ou-jen). Poisson farci (stuffed fish) is often included in cheb-ou-jen. There are many other common Senegalese foods. Yassa is a chicken stew made with any type of meat (usually made with chicken) marinated in lemon juice, pepper and onions. Wolof rice is consists of steamed rice with meat or fish, vegetables, oil, garnished with tomato paste, bay leaves and garlic. Chakri is steamed millet balls eaten with sweetened yogurt. Fataya is ground meat and onion pies. Bissap is a drink made from hibscus flowers that may be included with a meal.
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Wolof Rice, Fataya, and Bissap.

Gender Roles
In the past, farming labor was devised by gender and age. Young men cleaned bushes and prepared the land for sowing, once sees began to sprout women and children weeded. During the colonial period woman were limited to traditional roles of food preparation and childcare, they had little access to education. In 1965 fewer than 1% could speak French. Today female literacy is still far behind men but the gap is closing. In urban areas woman's roles are changing rapidly as they enter the labor market generally as secretaries, typists, sales clerks, maids and unskilled workers. In rural areas woman are taking on greater responsibilities outside their traditional roles by getting jobs. In Senegal many men marry more than one woman (polygamous marriages), 62% of women are in a polygamous marriage.
Woman are also getting more involved in politics, election rules stipulate that at least 1 woman must be elected rural councilor in every rural community. Caroline Diop was elected first woman deputy in 1963.

There are a total of 24 languages spoken within Senegal, but most are related. The main languages are French, Wolof, Serer, Pular, Diola, Mandinka and Soninke. French is the official language of instruction, business and government. Only the educated speak French. But most Senegalese speak Wolof, 80% of the population. Wolof is written with letters of the latin alphabet and it doesn't use grammatical gender.
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French poster

Wolof philosophy revolves around nit (human being) and his/her relationships with society, nature and the supernatural. They see nit as a living bundle containing hel (mind/intelligence), yaram (body), fit (courage) and sagoe (will) if one element is missing a person is sick. Sickness is a social and psychological imbalance, not only physical. Nit operates in a social universe that puts great emphasis on social belonging. The two most important values are jom (dignity/self respect) and ham-sa-bop (self-knowledge). Other important values are ham-ham (wisdom), bakh (goodness/kindness), terranga (hospitality), dega (honesty), set (cleanliness), moun (patience), tegin (good manners), kersa (respect for others) and yaru (discipline). Wolof also respect the environment and draw important lesson from nature.



The education system consists of primary schooling and then secondary schooling. Primary education ages 7-13 enrollment is 62% for boys and 50% for girls. Secondary education has a first cycle of 4 years, and a further cycle of 3 years, enrollment is 21% for boys and 11% for girls. 90% of children attend public schools. There is an average of 64 students per class in public schools.
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Senegalese classroom of all girls.

Senegal has a president with broad powers elected for a 7-year term. The constitution also provides for a multiparty system. Senegal is divided into 10 regions which are divided into departments and arrondissements (districts). The regions are administered governors who are assisted by deputy governors, one in charge of administration other in charge of development. Unlike many African countries Senegal has a stable government and the army has generally refrained from becoming involved in politics.

Senegal is one of the most well developed industrial sectors in West Africa. Important industries in Senegal are peanut-oil processing, cement and shoe plants, textile mills, chemicals, paper, furniture and electrical products. The introduction of modern fishing vessels has caused the fish industry to grow dramatically. Modern transportation networks are trains, buses and international air service.
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Fishermen and the International Airport in Dakar.

Cultural Diffusion

France had the biggest influence on Senegal. Senegal was colonized by France in 1890 and did not gain independence until 1960. French is the official language of instruction, business and government. During colonial times schools were introduced by the French, complete with French curriculum. The French also influenced Senegalese food, they introduced bread, dressed salads and appetizers. They also introduced Christianity to Senegal although only 5% of the population is Christian. Popular Senegalese music has been heavily influenced by American, French and Cuban music. Artists like Youssou N'Dour have created new styles of music, mbalax is a blend of the country's traditional griot percussion and praise-singing with the Afro-Cuban and Haitian kompa arrangement.
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French bread

Physical Geography

In the northern region you can find fruit trees such as mango, guava, orange, tangerine, grapefruit, coconut, papaya, and tamarind; hardwoods such as mahogany and rosewood; as well as oil palms, rubber trees and baobabs. The hardwoods are used for charcoal, firewood, and wood for sculpture. Mahogany is sculpted into various forms and sometimes decorated with ivory, cattle tails & horns, feathers and other objects. The crafts made are often needed for everyday use. The large selection of fruits are incorporated in to Senegalese dishes and foods. Temperatures can reach as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. To deal with the heat Senegalese they wear very light clothing like boubous. Senegal is on the coast, giving people access to the ocean and fish. Because there is an abundance of fish, it is used it most meals.
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Baobab tree and a wooden sculpture.


Work Cited

Boddy-Evans, Alistair. "West African Independence ." The New York Times Company, Web. 3 Jan 2010. <>.

L. Berg, Elizabeth. Cultures of The World: Senegal. Reference edition. New York: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 1999. Print.

M. Sallah, Tijan. The Heritage Library of African Peoples: Wolof. First Edition. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., 1996. Print.

"Senegal." CIA-The World Factbook. 11 Nov 2009. The World Factbook, Web. 5 Jan 2010. < /the-world-factbook/geos/sg.html>.

"Senegal." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 5 Jan 2010. Nupedia , Web. 5 Jan 2010. <>.

"Youssou N'Dour." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 5 Jan 2010. Nupedia , Web. 5 Jan 2010. <>.

"Wolof." Language Directory. GFDL, Web. 3 Jan 2010. <>.