Dakar and a Visit from Tom Meyers

We started the third week of Study with a trip to Dakar. We began with a visit to the African Renaissance Statue finished in 2010 to celebrate the country’s 50th anniversary of independence from French colonial rule. It sits on top of a huge hill on the edge of the city overlooking the ocean. Larger than the statue of liberty and costing well over $20 million, the statue frames the skyline for a great many people living in poverty. For this reason, and others, it has been a controversial installation along with several other construction projects initiated by former leader Abdoulaye Wade and dubbed Wade’s “Seven Wonders,” not all of which got completed during his terms in office. After the statue we spent some time at the market, ate lunch at a plush food court in a mall overlooking the ocean and took a whirlwind tour of downtown Dakar catching glimpses of a few of Wade’s other wonders including the gigantic six-story Grand Theater National with a capacity of over 70,000. The trip raised questions about perspectives on Senegal and Africa more generally. How do we as students, as tourist imagine Senegal in light of this visit and how do the imaginations of the leaders and the people find, or not find, representation.

We also picked up Tom Meyers in Dakar and spent the next few days visiting with him, including an engaging Wednesday night supper at Chez Goshen.