Monday, January 28, 2008

a saint in the city: sufi arts of urban senegal

Better late than never: A Saint in the City: Sufi arts of urban Senegal is a rather rich and informative article about a book about an art exhibit of works inspired by the influential Senegalese Muslim holy man, Amadou Bamba.

"A Saint in the City" presents the visual culture of a dynamic religious movement known as the Mouride Way that is inspired by a Senegalese Sufi pacifist, poet, and saint named Amadou Bamba (1853-1927). Mourides are galvanizing contemporary Senegal and its ever-expanding diaspora through their hard work and steadfast devotion. The exhibition presents a striking range of Mouride arts, from large popular murals, intricate glass paintings, and calligraphic healing devices to posters for social activism, colorful textiles, and paintings by internationally known contemporary artists. A devotional sanctum filled with sacred imagery and an urban market scene capturing the bustle of contemporary Dakar are re-created to suggest how Mourides live and work under the beneficent eye of the Saint (Fig. 1). Artist profiles and videos feature the voices and works of nine artists who have shaped our understanding of this deeply spiritual movement. Signal works from Islamic cultures elsewhere in Africa reveal a similarity to Mouride arts while underscoring particularities of Mouride creativity.


Mouridism is one of the most distinctive aspects of contemporary Senegalese social life. Indeed, it would be impossible to understand how the republic's "brisk and vigorous democracy" (NPR 1998) makes it "a beacon of hope ... in a troubled region" (Wallis & Caswell 2000) without fully appreciating this, the republic's most economically and politically influential Islamic movement. Mouridism links all secular and sacred activities. Senegal also has "a long tradition of amicable and tolerant co-existence between the Muslim majority and the Christian ... and other religious minorities" (CIR 2000; see also Ndiaye 2002:606); and political scientist Leonardo Villalon (1995) holds that the country's striking stability can be attributed to the unusual balance of power between the Senegalese government and the Mourides and other religious orders (also see Biaya 1998). In the year 2000, Senegal peacefully elected the long-time opposition candidate Abdoulaye Wade their president. Mr. Wade is a devoted Mouride, and since his election he has played a prominent role in negotiations for African peace and economic recovery (Onishi 2002).


"Islam in Africa is nearly as old as the faith itself" Rene Bravmann reminds us (2000:489), and a mere century after the Prophet Muhammed's death in 632 C.E., Islam was being practiced in trading towns of the Sahel. Islam reached what is now Senegal by the tenth century (Hiskett 1994:107) and soon became important to local politics (Levtzion 2000:78). In the eighteenth century, Sufism brought its international influences, spiritual technologies, and paths to divinity to Senegal. The growth of Islam in Africa has been phenomenal ever since, and now, at the turn of the twenty-first century, one of every eight Muslims hails from sub-Saharan Africa, while one of every three sub-Saharan Africans is Muslim (Kane & Triaud 1998:7, 12).

Ocean trade has connected Senegal to other parts of the world for many centuries. Lying at the westernmost point of the African continent, Senegal is the first sub-Saharan country encountered as one sails southward "around the bend" from Europe. It has long been a threshold between the Americas and Africa as well, and the fortifications and infamous "Slave House" of Goree Island lying just off the coast of Dakar provide poignant reminders of the transatlantic slave trade. Senegalese Muslims were among the first slaves brought to the Americas. "Literate, urban, and in some cases well traveled," they "realized incomparable feats in the countries of their enslavement" (S. Diouf 1998:1). (12) To underscore the point, Manning Marable writes that "faith and spirituality have always been powerful forces in the histories of people of African descent. Central to that history is Islam" (quoted in S. Diouf 1998, back cover).

If the above intrigues you, check out the entire article which goes into more detail about the concept of baraka, the role of Sufism in Senegal, the branch of Mouridism known as Baye Fall, and other subjects.

Shaykh Amadou Bamba
catching up

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

moving on: race, islam, and privilege

From Just Another Angry Black Muslim Woman?: Moving on: Race, Islam, and Privilege

bricolage - blackamerican islam and synthesizing the future

"armageddon has been in effect... go get a late pass!" (part two)

As I was trying to do more research about the Sudanese Mahdi, I found the paper, Nineteenth Century Islamic Mahdism in Iran and the Sudan: A brief analysis of the teachings and influence of Ali Muhammad (The Bab) and Muhammad Ahmad (The Sudanese Mahdi) by Jason Illari which compares his claims to those of the Persian Bab. The paper is interesting but takes a slightly polemical turn towards the end; it appears as if the author is Bahai and therefore actually believes that Bab was the true Mahdi.

an african american muslim convert as the founder of chinese hip-hop

Given that this blog (Planet Grenada) is supposed to be about "an emergic global anti-hegemonic culture" with Islam at its heart, I thought it would be good to include the following post from Islam in China: An African American Muslim Convert as the founder of Chinese Hip-Hop

britney spears may convert to islam

Alarabiya: Britney Spears may convert to Islam

Stranger things have happened. Actually no, they haven't. Somehow in the cases of other celebrity converts to Islam (Jermaine Jackson, Everlast, Cat Stevens, Rick James, or even looking at the rumors around Prince Charles) there seemed to be a little bit more continuity, however faint. In any case, this should be interesting however it turns out. Let's keep her in our dua.

white muslims
"we shall change them for fresh skins"
i'm rick james, ukhti?
michael jackson: off the wall
Middle East Quarterly: Prince Charles of Arabia

barak obama on the middle east

Common Dreams: Barack Obama on the Middle East by Stephen Zunes

See also: Planet Grenada on Obama (and other related subjects)

amir sulaiman: like a thief in the night

So one of the albums I did end up getting at the aforementioned (on my other blog) trip to the music was was Amir Sulaiman's Like a Thief in the Night which I definitely recommend. I was able to find videos clips to go along with two of the tracks. One is the very short film by Bobby O'Neil called Spit:

and then there is also the more sensitive piece "She Said I Prefer a Broken Neck (To a Broken Heart)" which appears on Like a Thief in the Night. But this particular performance is from Def Poetry Jam:

See also: upon the ashes of babylon

the black knight

I thought I should give a nod to Just Another Angry Black Muslim Woman? for her excellent gift of some Afro-Arab history with: The Black Knight: ‘Antar and the Arab Epic

see also:
Wikipedia: Antarah ibn Shaddad

Grenada's past:
catching up
black, but comely
a fatwa on pan-arab racism
the african palestinian connection

catching up

I've had the seeds of a lot of different posts rattling around in my head but I'm short on time so I think I'm "forced" to just do a link dump instead of a more thoughtful consideration

Over at Umar Lee's blog, “Ugly Black Women”, Perfect Arab Wives, and Matters of Race starts to discuss some of the less idealized aspects of race relations in the Arab world. This piece was originally inspired by Not Sure What To Make of this “Discussion” over at Soliloquies of a Stranger (The life of an African American, Muslim, Muhaajirah (Expat), from the hood, in an Inter-Racial Marriage. It Doesn’t get any stranger than that!).

Abdur Rahman Muhammad finally concluded his series with Why Blackamerican Muslims Don’t Stand For Justice Pt. 5

Ever since my post i and i and thou I've been meaning to find and share information about Baye Fall, an African-based, dreadlock-wearing Sufi order who are sometimes called "Muslim Rastas". Recently I saw a pretty 'Grenada-esque' entry over at Pa' Africa Muchacho tu ta loco?, written by Dominican blogger Francisco Perez who is currently travelling in Senegal. He has a brief entry on Cheikh Lo an African musician who is a member of the Baye Fall. I wish I had a more detailed understanding of the group, but I suspect that they could be a very strong example in my favor with respect to the ongoing discussions with Sondjata (see islam and afrocentrism, afrocentricity and islam ii) on whether Islam is consistent with being African.

Francisco also has another entry on the upcoming Eid al-Adha entitled What Would Jesus Buy? I'm not sure what else to say about the holiday. This year I feel like the holiday has surprised me. I'm not totally certain which city I'll be in for Eid. I have a couple of old posts about Eid al-Adha but I don't have any genuinely new comments for now.

good for the scalp, good for the soul

I found this article over at Tariq Nelson's blog, but I learned about this barbershop years ago hanging out with some Muslim friends in Chicago. This kind of story is definitely a nice change of pace.