In 1960, Senegal, the small, vibrant coastal country in West Africa, gained its independence from France. Although the event culminating in the country’s independence was not remarkable, the journey to that point was fraught with consistent local resistance and war.
Apart from a seven-year period when Britain took over French posts on the colony, Senegal was under French oversight for nearly 300 years. France’s eventual decolonization of the country was a long process, taking almost 15 years.
Senegal is often celebrated as a symbol of democracy and peace on the African continent. It often participates in peacekeeping throughout the region.
For its independence celebration, schools are closed for two weeks, and many visit friends and family. On Independence Day, also known as National Day, the country hosts a number of parades, of which the Dioubel Independence Day Parade in Dakar is the largest.
To celebrate their independence day, We shares with you some notable personalities who are from the West African nation.
Often regarded as the “father of African film”, Ousmane Sembene was a prolific writer, director and producer. The son of a fisherman, Sembene was born on January 1, 1923, in traditional Ziguinchor in Casamance to an Islamic Lebou family.
Sembene was greatly influenced by his maternal grandmother, who raised him and this was evident in most of his works as women played a major role. An example is the towering Ramatoulaye in God’s Bits of Wood. Other notable films to his credit include Xala (1975), Ceddo (1977), Thiaroye (1987), and Guelwaar (1992).
He passed away on June 9, 2007, in Dakar at the age of 84.
Mariama Ba was born in Dakar, Senegal, in 1929. She is celebrated as one of the most authentic and influential African authors of all time. A big portion of her literature focused on power, inequality, and gender. In her work, she often criticized African traditions that she deemed retrogressive, particularly since she was raised in an Islamic setting. Mariama died in 1981 before the release of her second novel, “Scarlet Song.” Although her writings were done in French, they have since been translated into several languages.
Born in the United States, 45-year-old Akon grew up in his home country Senegal until he was 7 years old when his family moved back to New Jersey. He spent some time in prison which influenced his music career.
His first single “Locked Up” was a worldwide hit after it was released from his debut album Trouble in 2004.
His second album, Konvicted received three Grammy Award nominations for “Smack That” and “I Wanna Love You”. He later had two more Grammy nominations to his credit.
Forbes ranked Akon 80th (Power Rank) in Forbes Celebrity 100 in 2010 and 5th in 40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa list, in 2011. Billboard ranked Akon No. 6 on the list of Top Digital Songs Artists of the decade.
Born to a Senegalese father, Gabourey Sidibe shot into stardom for her role as Claireece “Precious” Jones in her debut movie Precious. She won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead and earned best actress nominations for Golden Globe Award and Academy Award for her role. Other films she has starred in include Tower Heist, White Bird in a Blizzard, Grimsby, among others.
One of the most talented and most popular musicians to come out of Africa, N’Dour helped to globally elevate the traditional Senegalese mbalax dance music genre.
In 1998, N’Dour, alongside Axelle Red, composed and performed “La Cour des Grands”, the official anthem of the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France.
With several albums and international collaborations to his name, 59-year-old N’Dour has been nominated for the Grammys 6 times with 1 win.
He also served as Senegal’s Minister of Tourism between 2012 and 2013.
Besides acting, Issa Rae is also a web series creator, writer, director, and producer. She is best known for her popular award-winning YouTube series, Awkward Black Girl. Rae also made history in 2016 when she became the first black woman to create and star in her own premium cable series, Insecure with HBO. Her father is an American based Senegalese medical practitioner. She stayed in Senegal briefly with her family during her childhood before eventually moving to the United States.