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Remembering the Nation

The Murid Maggal of Saint-Louis Senegal
Mémoire de la nation. Les Maggal mourides de Saint-Louis, Sénégal
Ferdinand de Jong
p. 123-151


Tous les ans, le 5 septembre, la confrérie des Mourides du Sénégal se remémore une prière de son fondateur Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba. Cette prière fut menée par le saint alors qu’il était jugé et condamné à l’exil par les autorités coloniales françaises. Cet article présente une histoire de la prière et une ethnographie du pèlerinage des disciples mourides pour commémorer la prière en tant qu’acte de résistance contre le régime colonial. Il analyse la prière comme une performance sous forme de palimpseste qui rappelle les relations historiques entre les leaders laïques et soufis dans le présent, en même temps qu’elle fusionne les subjectivités civiques et religieuses des citoyens et des disciples. Suggérant que la prière met en acte une gamme de temporalités différentes, alors même qu’elle est encadrée par le calendrier grégorien, l’article suggère que la prière produit une subjectivité hybride de l’appartenance autant de la confrérie musulmane que de la nation sénégalaise. Il démontre que la nation sénégalaise est produite par le biais du souvenir, plutôt que par celui de l’historicité.

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  • 1 This article is part of a larger project that will result in a monograph provisionally titled Remem (...)

1In the nineteenth century Saint-Louis was the capital of French West Africa1. Today, the colonial architecture of Saint-Louis still reminds of the city’s former political importance.  For this reason the island of Saint-Louis is now listed as a unesco World Heritage site.  An annual commemoration of a prayer performed in 1895 by a Senegalese Saint, Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, derives its significance precisely from the backdrop of this colonial architecture. Every 5 September, the disciples of the Sufi brotherhood of the Muridiyya founded by the Saint, commemorate how the latter defied French authority and conducted a prayer in front of the assembled French authorities in the Governor’s palace.  The annual commemoration attracts tens of thousands of pilgrims, some of whom visit the cell where Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba was incarcerated following his act of defiance.  The act of commemoration remembers the Saint’s resistance with grandeur.  For several days, the central square of Saint-Louis is decorated with images of the Muslim Saint and seems entirely appropriated by the Murid brotherhood.

  • 2 Since van Gennep’s (1960) seminal interpretation of rituals as “rites of passage”, rituals have bee (...)
  • 3 In Wolof maggal literally means “celebration”.  In contrast to the hajj, attendance at a maggal is (...)

2In this article, I will examine how this commemoration should be understood in relation to Senegal’s polity and the Senegalese nation.  In order to frame the commemoration let me start with some reflections on pilgrimage.  As rituals of movement, pilgrimages often frame travel as a movement through secular space to a sacred place.  Metaphorically, travel through space is often understood as a movement from the present to the past.  Pilgrimage is travel through space and time.  In keeping with van Gennep’s model of rites of passage (1960), pilgrimage enables travel to the past and after a liminal moment of communion with the past, a return to the present.  The pilgrimage is productive in the sense that this liminal moment of communion with the past actually transforms the relationship of the present to the past2.  Therefore I suggest that pilgrimage is a technology of temporality. Such a conception of the transformative power of pilgrimage will enable us to understand how the Murid pilgrims imagine the prayer by Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba and its impact in the present.  By re-enacting a moment in the colonial history of Senegal, the Murid Maggal commemorates history through mimesis and thus performs the colonial past in the postcolonial present3.  In fact, as I will demonstrate, it is through this act of mimesis that Senegal’s postcoloniality is produced.

  • 4 For discussions of other Maggal in Senegal, including the Grand Maggal of Touba, see Villalòn (1994 (...)

3Pilgrimages are important for the imagination of community (Anderson 1991).  The movement through space is indeed pivotal to the making of nationalism, and in particular to religious nationalism (van Der Veer 1994). The problem, then, is to understand the movement through space in relation to the imagination of the nation, or to ask, as Bhabha (1994: 204) tells us, “the essential question of the representation of the nation as a temporal process”.  Here I examine the significance of the Murid Maggal of Saint-Louis for the imagination of the Senegalese nation by relating the pilgrimage as “a moment in and out of time” to Anderson’s “homogeneous, empty time”4.  Engaging Bhabha’s proposal to situate nationalism in a temporality which is not equivalent to Western historicism, I hope to imagine an alternative way of situating the nation in time.  I propose to understand the Murid Maggal as a form of nationalist imagination, “posited not on identity but rather on a difference with the ‘modular’ forms of national society propagated by the modern West” (Chatterjee 1993: 5).  I will situate the temporalities produced by the pilgrimage in the space of Saint-Louis and the Senegalese nation.  In a way, this article is an attempt to spatialize time and to temporalize space.
If the form of nationalism performed at the Murid Maggal is based on a difference, then the form of political subjectivity performed in the re-enactment of the prayer must be based on difference too.  If the national subjectivity in modular forms of nationalism is based on a “deep, horizontal comradeship” (Anderson 1991: 7) which is fundamentally secular, then its equivalent in the Senegalese variety of nationalism will have to include a vertical element of submission to the Saint.  I will analyse the Prayer as a ritualised performance of political subjectivity, in many ways comparable to the act of voting as a recurrent performance of political subjectivity in every democracy (Bertrand et al. 2007).  The question then, is how the Prayer defines the polity and how it consequently defines the relationship between the Saint and his disciples and the State and its subjects.  In other words, I ask which model of political subjectivity is performed at the Prayer.

Citizens and Subjects in Colonial Senegal

  • 5 I have not conducted any historical research.  This section is entirely based on the published rese (...)

4Under French rule, the population of Saint-Louis consisted of Frenchmen, métis (Creoles), and Africans5.  As the island of Saint-Louis was considered French territory, in fact as French soil, the inhabitants of the island were subject to French law and enjoyed French citizenship.



(from Saint-Louis, Sénégal. Plan de la ville. Éd. Librairie-papeterie Wakhatilene, Dakar)

5However, these rights were not enjoyed equally among the members of the various social groups.  Whereas the French had full civic and civil rights, the status of the métis depended on their assimilation, which was not defined legally.  There was, however, never any doubt about their status of assimilés. This was less clear with regard to the African elite which had been created by the French policy of assimilation, but whose political rights were constantly subject to redefinition.  The political rights of the African population in Saint-Louis were granted by the metropolis and applied equally to the African populations of les quatre communes (the Four Communes) Saint-Louis, Gorée, Rufisque, and Dakar.  The black African inhabitants of the Four Communes were referred to as originaires (natives from the Four Communes) and defined by their access to the political process on an equal footing with the French and the métis, unlike the Africans living in the Protectorate who as sujets (subjects) were denied the rights of citizenship.
An African political elite emerged in the Four Communes but their acquisition of political rights was by no means a linear historical process (Johnson 1971; Diouf 1999).  Access to political rights was not a matter of principle, but a result of the historically contingent application of criteria such as assimilation, race and residence.  Nonetheless, the extension of citizen rights to the originaires resulted in a sharp division between the interests of the Four Communes and interests of the interior.  This division was not only a matter of access to rights, but reflected in status, cultural habitus and identity.  The originaires prided themselves on their closeness to the French, their participation in French colonial history and their familiarity with French taste.  Legally, their status of citizen was based on their birth on the island of Saint-Louis.  Thus place of birth created a sharp division between Africans with citizenship, and those without.  As Governor-General Gabriel Angoulvent remarked, the members of the Four Communes were “a true civil and political aristocracy based on the chance of birth” (Johnson 1971: 228).  And this urban elite defended its privileges jealously in the face of the rural population (ibid.: 88).  The principles of the French Revolution—liberty, equality and brotherhood—had thus been granted and embraced as privileges by those who acquired them.  Citizenship in the Four Communes was a creolised citizenship, part of a creolised culture. The legacy of the French Revolution did not yield equality, but hierarchy. Today, the descendants of the originaires still implicitly consider themselves superior to the descendants of the sujets.  Today the distinction between citizens and slaves is remembered in the annual festival of the Fanal (De Jong 2009).

Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba and the Muridiyya

  • 6 The Muridiyya has been the subject of numerous studies, both in French, English and Wolofal.  An in (...)

6In the 1880s, the colonial government effectively began to consolidate its grip on the interior of Senegal.  Islam, which many Senegalese had regarded as an alien force, became a focal point for resistance, either active or passive, to French authority (Klein 1968; Cruise O’Brien 1971; Robinson 2000; Searing 2002).  Many Senegalese converted to Islam and became disciples of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, who founded the tariqa (path) of the Muridiyya. This was the first Muslim brotherhood in Senegal founded by a Black African6.  Indeed, the establishment of colonial rule met with various forms of resistance which resulted in a French fear of uprisings.  The colonial government was suspicious of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba and in 1891 summoned him to the capital, Saint-Louis.  Bamba refused and sent an emissary. In 1895, the colonial authorities summoned him again.  This time Bamba was arrested and travelled to Saint-Louis where he was condemned to seven years of exile in Gabon.  Upon his return to Senegal in 1902, Bamba was received by thousands of followers.  He had effectively become a living martyr.  While he was allowed to return to his native region, he was once more arrested in 1903 and exiled, this time to Mauritania.

  • 7 See Cruise O’Brien (1971), Klein (1998), Robinson (2000), Searing (2002). There is considerable una (...)
  • 8 The number of articles, dissertations and books published on the Murid diaspora is vast and rapidly (...)

7By that time, suggests Robinson (2000: 218), it was already clear that the Murids were a necessary part of the infrastructure of central Senegal. Murids organised themselves in communities under the leadership of the order (marabouts), in which they produced groundnuts for the market economy.  The Murid disciples worked on the peanut estates that belonged to their marabouts and received plots of land and the marabouts’ grace (baraka) in return.  The Murid movement thus solved a persistent problem posed by the abolition of slavery: it transformed slaves and former slaves into followers of the Cheikh, compensating their dedication and daily work with the promise of salvation in the hereafter.  The Muridiyya became part of the emerging new order in which they incorporated former slaves as followers and clients who grew peanuts for the French tradehouses7.  One of the first disciples of Bamba, the enigmatic Cheikh Ibra Fall, founded the first urban Murid settlement in Saint-Louis, which became a centre of diplomacy and trade (Cruise O’Brien 2003: 79).  Thus the Murids organised labour and production for the colonial economy and found their place within the colonial order.  In acknowledgement of this mutual accommodation, the colonial administration recognised the good relations with the Murids by attending important Murid ceremonies (Robinson 2000: 224).  Even after the death of the founder in 1927, the Muridiyya continued to secure the social order, now led by Bamba’s sons and grandsons.  To this day the Murid brotherhood is led by Ahmadou Bamba’s descendants, from amidst whom the Khalif-Général of the brotherhood is chosen.
An important transformation in the balance of power between the colonial administration and the Murid brotherhood occurred after the Second World War, when suffrage was extended to the countryside.  The rural marabouts now wielded huge “voting banks” of disciples who could be directed to vote according to the marabouts’ wish, by means of a religious order (ndiggel).  The situation of mutual accommodation was now reversed: leading politicians were obliged to arrange subsidies for the marabouts in return for their followers’ votes.  This practice continued after Independence and has been analysed as the “social contract” that ensures the political stability of the Senegalese democracy (Cruise O’Brien 1971, 2003; Copans 1980; Coulon 1981; Villalón 1995; Robinson 2000).  As a result of the declining production of peanuts due to soil exhaustion and falling prices on the world market, the Murid economy has changed its focus.  After their urbanisation in Senegal in the 1960s, the Murids have moved further afield and now constitute a truly global diaspora8.  This transformation of the Murid economy has evidently had an impact on the relationship between the Murid leadership and the Senegalese government.  The former seems to have become less dependent on the latter, therefore allowing the “liberalisation” of the Murid vote.  To what extent the Senegalese “social contract” is still in place is a matter of debate (Diaw et al. 2000; Cruise O’Brien et al. 2002; Cruise O’Brien 2003; Dahou & Foucher 2004; Audrain 2004; Villalón 2004).  The evidence I present here suggests that the terms of the “social contract” are increasingly being revised to the advantage of the Murid brotherhood.  Yet, my evidence also suggests that the increased migration of Murids has reinforced the need to define the brotherhood as “Senegalese”.

The Prayer of the Two Rakaas

  • 9 This confirms our hypothesis that in Africa, memory seems directed against the public sphere (Rowla (...)

8In the days before the 5th September Prayer, the centre of Saint-Louis is entirely dominated with Murid symbols9.  The images of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba and Cheikh Ibra Fall—his most loyal disciple—cover many house fronts on the island throughout the year, as they do in many Senegalese cities (Roberts & Nooter Roberts 2003.  But in the days before the Prayer, large paintings of both Saints hang from the facades of two colonial army barracks at the Place Faidherbe, the central square of the city.

Banner with effigy of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba on a public building at the Place Faidherbe

Banner with effigy of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba on a public building at the Place Faidherbe

9The Governor’s palace, which sits on the square, is covered with flags with names of Allah (in Arabic) and its entrance is decorated with a banner, stating (in French): “Oh Bamba, tu as sauvé l’Islam” (“Oh Bamba, you saved Islam”).  The cell where Bamba was incarcerated after his trial and condemnation to exile is open to the public.  Pilgrims visit the cell to commemorate the incarceration of their Saint.  On the sidewalks of the Place Faidherbe Murid traders offer effigies of the various Murid saints for sale.

Effigies of Murid Saints for sale on the sidewalks of the Place Faidherbe

Effigies of Murid Saints for sale on the sidewalks of the Place Faidherbe

10The bridge across the Senegal River that gives access to the island of Saint-Louis from the mainland is decorated too.

Murid flags on the Pont Faidherbe

Murid flags on the Pont Faidherbe

11The Pont Faidherbe is covered with flags in the typical black and green Murid colours.  It is significant that both the bridge and the square are named after Faidherbe.  Léon Faidherbe was governor of Senegal for a long period (1851-61, 1863-65).  Setting up the colonial institutions in Senegal and expanding the frontiers of Senegal, he became a model to his successors. “For all these reasons”, says Robinson (2000: 61), “he is often considered the ‘father’, or ‘founder’, of Senegal”, at least by professional historians. Indeed, if one person could personify Senegal’s colonial history, it is ÍFaidherbe.  His memory therefore pervades the public space of Saint-Louis.  Not only is he remembered in the name of the central square and the bridge connecting Saint-Louis to the mainland, he is also memorialised in a statue at the square Faidherbe in front of the Governor’s palace.

  • 10 For a study on the Baye Fall that focuses on their ethics and position within the Murid brotherhood (...)
  • 11 Cruise O’Brien (1971: 156-157) already noticed that Baye Fall often act as a sort of militia or as (...)

12The sizable statue portrays Faidherbe as a visionary conquerer, whose posture seems to accentuate his virility.  The plaque on the statue reads, “À son gouverneur L. Faidherbe.  Le Sénégal reconnaissant.  1886” (“To its governor L. Faidherbe.  Its obliging Senegal.  1886”).  Unsurprisingly, the Murid pilgrims do not feel any obligation towards Faidherbe.  In fact, they reject that both the bridge and the square are named after him.  Each year they plead for the square and the bridge to be renamed after Bamba instead.  One year, some militant Baye Fall, followers of Cheikh Ibra Fall, even tried to topple the statue of Faidherbe10.  Less militant perhaps, but just as unequivocal is the attitude of regular pilgrims: while queueing for the cell where Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba was incarcerated, they turn their backs towards Faidherbe’s statue.
The Murid disciples appropriate the public space of the city and demonstrate their submission to the Saint through ostentatious behaviour.  Groups of disciples chant sacred songs while walking down the streets.  Sitting on top of trucks, they sing and cheer and demand the attention of pedestrians. Baye Fall, often drunk or stoned, beg persistently.  Some of them take issues.  Not only do Baye Fall manifest themselves in provocative ways, they effectively take control of the Place Faidherbe.  In 2004, while taking pictures of the Murid banners, I was “arrested” by a Baye Fall who took me to his superior to whom I had to explain myself11.  While the Baye Fall thus police the square during the day, at night the disciples convene in prayer sessions and sing the sacred songs (khassaïd) composed by Bamba, amplified with electronic loudspeakers.  Thus city and soundscape are saturated with Murid propaganda.  Although Murids deny that the Prayer is a manifesto of Murid power, that is exactly how the Prayer is seen by a good number of inhabitants of Saint-Louis.  And the Murid presence is not restricted to the public space of Saint-Louis; the national media cover the performance of the Prayer and the Murids are so influential that the director of the National Radio and Television (rts) himself is sent to Saint-Louis to supervise its coverage.

Statue of Governor Faidherbe at the Place Faidherbe

Statue of Governor Faidherbe at the Place Faidherbe

13On the 5th of September, from midday onwards, the Pont Faidherbe is closed to motorised traffic.  Many pilgrims from Dakar, Touba, and the countryside arrive in Saint-Louis by bus and cross the Pont Faidherbe on foot to look for a proper place at the Place Faidherbe to conduct the five o’clock prayer.  Well before takussaan, the Place Faidherbe is saturated with pilgrims and many have to roll out their prayer mat in one of the adjacent streets.  On the mainland, those who have arrived late can no longer cross the bridge to attend the Prayer on the island.  The city is completely congested.  In discipline, the pilgrims conduct the Prayer that remembers the Saint’s defiance of the colonial regime.  Instead of the five sequences of bodily submission to Allah that constitute a regular Muslim prayer, they pray the abridged version of two rakaas.  After the prayer some pilgrims are eager to go home and rush back to the mainland, running across the Pont Faidherbe, elated about their mission accomplie.

14What exactly is commemorated by the Murids on the 5th of September? In 2003, a few days before the Prayer, I met the painter Tapha Seck who was selling his Murid paintings on the pavement of the Place Faidherbe. Seck is a Baye Fall and former school teacher who makes a living as a painter.  As soon as I made inquiries about his paintings he recounted his version of what had happened in 1895, assuring me that he had conducted extensive research:

“Senegal was ruled by the Whites.  Their government was in Saint-Louis.  Their Governor convoked all eighty-four marabouts of Senegal.  When they arrived, the Governor wanted them to renounce their Muslim faith.  He wanted them to sign an agreement to abscond their faith.  Eighty-three marabouts signed.  But Bamba, on his turn, refused to sign.  He signalled the impurity of the meeting and ordered his follower Cheikh Ibra Fall to cleanse the room.  After Ibra Fall had cleansed the room, Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba prayed two rakaas.”

15“This prayer”, Tapha concluded:

“Saved us.  Had Bamba not said his prayer, we would still have lived under colonial rule and Islam would have been forbidden.  Through his prayer of the two rakaas, Bamba has saved Islam and our purity.”

  • 12 For a discussion of the proceedings of the Conseil privé, see Babou (2007: 126-127).
  • 13 The historical accounts differ as to who misled the colonial administration to arrest and exile Bam (...)

16This account of the Prayer is represented in one of Seck’s paintings that hung from the Governor’s palace during the week of commemoration.
Conveniently located above the entrance to the cell in which Bamba was incarcerated, it reminded the pilgrims of the historical event that they had come to commemorate.  The painting is obviously an embellished account of the historical event.  Historically, it is debatable whether Bamba really performed the prayer of two rakaas at the Conseil privé (Privy Council) at which he was convoked12.  Moreover, he was the only person convoked at this meeting.  But in terms of its symbolism the prayer of two rakaas seems a fitting response to a situation in which he was accused of organising a revolt against the colonial administration.  As the historian Babou (2007: 242 n. 52) states, “[m]uslims perform this abridged prayer in a situation of emergency and adversity”.  For the Murids, there is no doubt that Bamba did pray a prayer of two rakaas.  Bamba’s prayer was the only possible answer to a situation that was definitely adverse to the Saint.  Historians agree that the Saint did not represent a threat to the colonial administration, but was made to represent a threat through the fabrication of false evidence.  From the outset it was clear that his convocation to the Privy Council was meant to lead to his condemnation to exile.  The fact that he was brought before the Privy Council—instead of the General Council—suggests that the administration had already made up its mind (Robinson 2000: 215; Searing 2002: 78; Babou 2007: 123)13.  But however successful the sham process in exiling Bamba, it only aggrandized his martyrdom.  Today, the commemoration remembers the meeting at the Privy Council as a sham process at which Bamba conducted his act of purification.

Bamba’s prayer during his trial. Painting by Tapha Seck

Bamba’s prayer during his trial. Painting by Tapha Seck

The Foundation of the Prayer

  • 14 Madické Wade (1987) is the author of various tracts and books on Muridism, including Destinée du mo (...)

17Anti-colonialism and the celebration of the Saint as an anti-colonialist hero, are important objectives in the commemoration of the Prayer.  This was confirmed by one of the founders of the Prayer Madické Wade, in an interview he kindly accorded me.  Established Murid intellectual today, Wade acknowledged that he had not always been a Murid14.  In fact, this school teacher had always been primarily interested in the anti-colonial struggle. In the era of late colonialism he read Mao and supported communist and Afro-nationalist ideas.  Wade was a member of the Senegalese Parti africain de l’Indépendance (pai) and spent four years in military training in Cuba, preparing to topple colonial rule.  After the suppression of PAI and other political parties under President Senghor, Madické Wade and quite a few of his communist comrades steered away from communism and embraced Muridism.  To them, Wade argued, this was a logical step towards the realisation of socialism: “Socialist values such as work, sacrifice, solidarity and the struggle against exploitation, are all critical values in Muridism.” To these Senegalese ex-communists Muridism clearly represented a Senegalese solution to problems previously understood in Marxist terms.

  • 15 Here, it should also be noted that the date of the Grand Maggal of Touba was also changed, in 1946 (...)

18When President Senghor liberated the Senegalese political landscape in 1976 and allowed the existence of three political parties, pai was not one of them.  It is perhaps not a historical coincidence that Madické Wade and others organised the first commemoration of the Prayer of the Two Rakaas in 1976.  This commemoration in Saint-Louis was in fact part of a wider Afro-nationalist, Murid student movement (Cruise O’Brien 2003: 83-91). Not confined to Senegal, these students also supported a week of reflection on Ahmadou Bamba at the unesco headquarters in Paris in 1979.  But the pace of public recognition for Muridism was slow and many obstacles needed to be overcome before the Murid path was fully acknowledged in Saint-Louis.  Madické Wade remembers that the first commemoration of the Prayer was held at the Great Mosque in the centre of Saint-Louis and attracted an audience of approximately four hundred participants.  While they had virtually no resources—the Murid leadership had given its permission to organise the event, but no financial aid—they held a second commemoration on the 5th of June 1977.  At that occasion the Khalif-général of the brotherhood suggested that they should celebrate the Prayer on the fifth of September, a suggestion which was endorsed15.  But in Saint-Louis the Murid organisers encountered various problems.  The Murid celebration at the Great Mosque—a mosque that should not belong to any particular Muslim sect—was contested by other Muslims.  Moreover, the organisers faced a lack of co-operation on the part of the city’s municipality.  The genesis of the Maggal reveals much about the reasons for its making and in this respect I found the narrative that Madické Wade told me, particularly instructive.

19Wade emphasized that the organisation of the commemoration had initially been opposed by the Governor of Saint-Louis and the other Sufi brotherhoods of Saint-Louis.  Thus in 1978 Wade and his associates organised a meeting in the Wiltord stadium on the mainland, from where they marched to the city centre in order to commemorate the prayer at the Place Faidherbe. When they arrived at the Governor’s palace they were kept at bay by the city’s police force.  But torrential rains then fell upon the protesters and the police force, resulting in their dispersion.  At that moment Wade and his associates swore to commemorate the Prayer at the Place Faidherbe and they indeed overcame all obstacles and managed to organise the next commemoration at the city’s central square.  President Diouf sent the organisers a letter congratulating them on their initiative and also authorised their access to the Governor’s palace.  Ever since, the organising committee of the Kureel des deux Rakaa de Ndar has organised the commemoration of the Prayer at the Governor’s palace.

20Interestingly, this account of the establishment of the Prayer seems to contain a script for the pilgrimage.  The account relates how both secular government and Muslims of Saint-Louis were initially opposed to the celebration and how the organisers were forced to convene at a stadium at the mainland.  It was from the mainland that the organisers subsequently marched to the city centre and confronted the police.  The resistance by the police force was overcome through Divine intervention (the torrential rains) and ever since, the Prayer has been commemorated at the appropriate place and time: at the Governor’s palace on the fifth of September.  The account thus seems to provide a ritual script.  It suggests that the pilgrimage should be started at the mainland; that the Pont Faidherbe should be crossed on foot and furthermore, that the Prayer should be conducted at the Place Faidherbe. But the account simultaneously provides a charter for the pilgrimage, legitimizing it through references to interventions by the Khalif-général of the brotherhood who indicated the proper day and God himself who indicated the proper place.  Finally, President Diouf is invoked as the secular authority who legitimated the Prayer by means of an official letter of endorsement.

21Madické Wade’s account provides a charter for the Prayer by naming those that made the Prayer possible, but his account also makes multiple references to forces that tried to obstruct its establishment.  That the organisers were initially expelled from the Great Mosque suggests that non Murid Muslims resisted the establishment of the Prayer.  One may indeed assume that the Tijaniyya perceived the establishment of the Prayer as a threat. The Tijaniyya had always been the dominant Sufi brotherhood in Saint-Louis—as in most Senegalese cities—but as a result of the rural exodus of the early 1970s and the rising urbanisation of the Murids, rivalry between the established Tijaniyya and arriving Murids increased in many urban areas (Diop 1981).  The establishment of the Prayer should indeed be seen as an expression of the influx of Murids in Saint-Louis and the obstruction to their use of the Great Mosque should be seen as an attempt to limit their expansion.  As a result of intense propaganda amongst Saint-Louis’ youth, the Murids have nevertheless managed to establish their presence in Saint-Louis.

22The resistance by government and city council against the establishment of the Prayer signalled the unwillingness of the secular authorities to accommodate the Murid presence in Saint-Louis.  Considering Madické Wade’s own politics, this part of the story is perhaps the least surprising.  But Wade also mentioned resistance against the establishment of the Prayer from within the Murid brotherhood.  This distrust of Wade and his associates needs to be understood as an expression of the historical antagonism between Saint-Louis and the hinterland in the context of colonialism.  Place of birth and French education made Wade and his associates unlikely candidates to launch the Prayer and within the brotherhood, this initiative generated distrust of those French-educated Saint-Louisiens, entitled to French citizenship.  Moreover, in its organisation of the Maggal the Kureel did not affiliate itself to one particular branch of the Mbacké family.  The Kureel thus operates independently from the descendants of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba that constitute the Murid leadership.  The establishment of the Prayer by the educated elite of Saint-Louis therefore demonstrates the integration of those privileged by birth, in the Murid brotherhood without overt submission to any particular branch of the Mbacké family.  The successful establishment of the Prayer signals an alliance between established Saint-Louis families and the Murid leadership from the hinterland.
While the Kureel was initially composed of just a few inhabitants of the island, it now has fifty-eight sections that comprise all Murid daairas of Saint-Louis and is organised in committees that are charged with the invitation of guests, their transport, security and accommodation, cultural activities and other responsibilities in the organisation of the Prayer.  Many Kureel members are highly educated, secondary school teacher whose sociability emphasizes education as part of their civilisation.  Colonial Saint-Louis had always been home to a number of educational institutions that served the colonial policy in French West Africa and the ethos of education is still a distinct colonial legacy in this city.  This ethos is not restricted to secular knowledge, as Muslim education is just as highly valued (the Tijaniyya of Saint-Louis are renown for their knowledge of the Qur’an). There is no doubt that the Kureel members aim to inculcate this ethos in the Murid disciples through a series of activities around the Prayer.  Each day of the week prior to the Prayer is dedicated to a particular theme that is explored in lectures and debates.  For instance, one day is dedicated to Mame Diarra Bousso (the mother of the Saint) in order to reflect on the role of women in the Murid brotherhood.  Another day is dedicated to Cheikh Ibra Fall in order to explore the significance of work in the brotherhood. In addition to these recurring themes, every Maggal commemorates the achievements of one particular, deceased member of the Mbacké family. Thus the Kureel aspires thus to instruct the disciples in Murid history and morality.  The “cultural week” preceding the Prayer is in fact entirely dedicated to the education of the Murid disciples.
Like other Muslim festivals, the Maggal clearly serves to heighten the internal coherence of the brotherhood and to promote the Murid way to outsiders (Villalón 1994).  Historically, it is most likely that Murid urbanisation gave an impetus to the organisation of the Prayer (Diop 1981; Cruise O’Brien 2003: 58-63).  As an expression of anti-colonialism, the foundation of the Prayer was also part of a much wider movement of Murid students and intellectuals in the 1970s who interpreted Bamba as a national hero and used Muridism as a channel for Afro-nationalism (Cruise O’Brien 2003: 83-91).  But the Prayer is a Maggal that is typical for Saint-Louis in uniting the Murid immigrants in Saint-Louis under the leadership of the city’s educated elite.  To this day, the Maggal enables a French-educated elite to reach and instruct the subjects/disciples into Afro-nationalism at the former capital of colonial French West Africa.  In that respect, the Maggal of Saint-Louis enables Saint-Louisiens to imagine their city in the Murid memoryscape and all Murids to imagine their polity (Coulon 1999).

Memory against Colonialism

23The Prayer is a performance of the polity, past and present.  The re-enactment of the prayer remembers Bamba’s spiritual resistance against the colonial regime.  The pilgrims arrive from the mainland—historically the space of the colonial sujets—and quietly enter the public space of the island, historically the space of French citizenship.  In the afternoon, they say their prayer, re-enacting Bamba’s prayer at the Governor’s palace.  The pilgrims re-member spiritual resistance against the colonial regime at the Faidherbe square that symbolises the political centre of the French empire in West Africa.  After the Prayer, the pilgrims return to the mainland, victorious, elated about their spiritual victory over French rule.  It is clear that this victory represents both a victory of Islam over a secular regime and a victory of the Black African over the White man.  In addition to these memories of the religious and racial politics under colonialism, one can discern a memory with regard to the political rights granted by the French colonial authority.  The Prayer is a deliberate intrusion of the space of political rights and their appropriation.  Indeed, some inhabitants of Saint-Louis experience the Maggal as an intrusion or invasion of the city by “uncivilised” Africans.  The Prayer is definitely not a fulfilment of the ideals of the French Revolution: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.  In fact, they are not even alluded to.  But the performance signals that what the Senegalese deputy to the French General Assembly Blaise Diagne established on French terms, was already established by Bamba on his terms: Recognition of Africans.

  • 16 Coulon (1999: 202) observes that the presence of state officials at the Grand Maggal of Touba is a (...)
  • 17 The young man was correct in stating that the Mali Federation acquired its independence on 4 April (...)

24The re-enactment of the Prayer also seems to make a statement with regard to the contemporary organisation of the polity16.  The Prayer is attended by politicians who spend the afternoon in the presence of the Murid leadership in the Governor’s palace.  At the Prayer of 2004, no less than five Ministers travelled from Dakar to attend the commemoration.  In his absence, the President of the Republic was represented by the Governor of the region of Saint-Louis.  The presence of the national government was acknowledged by the Murid leadership and thus lent the government legitimacy in the eyes of the Murid disciples.  In 2004 President Wade acknowledged this favour, suggesting—in his speech after the Prayer, read by the Governor—that Bamba had liberated Senegal from colonial rule and given the Senegalese citizenship.  With reference to Bamba’s prayer at the Governor’s palace, the President said: “That act of Bamba deserves to be commemorated annually because it expresses the achievements of our dead, of those who gave their lives for our freedom; the freedom which has generated Senegal, the national idea, and the Senegalese civic spirit.”  In this speech the President’s reference to “those who died for our freedom” seems derived from the format of European commemorations of struggles for national liberation from Nazi rule.  In fact, only weeks before the celebration of this Maggal the President had attended the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Toulon in France, which had subsequently motivated him to stage the Journée du tirailleur in Dakar (De Jong 2008).  Through his reference to “those who died for our freedom”, the Senegalese President suggested an analogy between the military liberation of Europe by the Allied Forces and the achievement of Senegal’s political independence by Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba.  This analogy brings into sharp relief the pacifist strategy of the Sufi Saint.
Although the President’s statement was an obvious historical anachronism, it inserted a sense of citizenship in the Murid disciples and their convictions in the face of an apparent Murid retreat from the realm of politics.  Simultaneously, the President’s statement seems to particularize the Murid brotherhood against its self-proclaimed universality.  While the Murids increasingly operate in transnational networks, their Senegalese identity was thus reinforced by the President.  The Senegalese President thus “nationalised” Bamba in exchange for the acknowledgement that Senegal’s independence and citizenship are the products of Bamba’s Prayer and spiritual resistance against the French colonial authorities.
This anachronistic acknowledgement of the role of Bamba in the acquisition of political independence resonates with the Murid disciples’ opinions. One young man explained to me that Senegal’s National Independence day is incorrectly celebrated on the 4th of April as, he asserted, it is wrongly assumed that Senegal acquired its Independence on 4 April 1960.  He reminded me that the Mali Federation of Senegal and Sudan acquired its independence on the 4th of April, but the Federation did not last and was abrogated.  While Mali signed its independence on the 4th of September 1960, he argued, Senegal signed on the 5th of September17.  This he considered significant.  This is in line with a more general trend amongst Murids not to take the apparent for granted, but to read appearances for more esoteric, and more truthful meanings (Roberts & Roberts 2000).  In Murid memory, the history of the Republic and its annual commemoration of Independence is a secular history of mere appearances.  A more profound, truthful account of Senegal’s history suggests that Senegal acquired its political independence on the 5th of September 1960, as a re-membrance—a belated effect—of the prayer said by Amadou Bamba in 1895.  Most Murids hold that Bamba—not Blaise Diagne, Galandou Diouf or Léopold Sédar Senghor—liberated Senegal.

The Maggal as Palimpsest Memory

25The commemoration remembers the colonial regime quite differently from how historians remember it.  While the colonial regime initially pursued Muslim Saints and persecuted the jihadists who resisted colonial conquest, it subsequently sought to establish paths of accommodation (Robinson 2000).  In the aftermath of colonial conquest, the French colonial regime defined itself as a puissance musulmane, a secular empire tolerant of Muslim practices.  The colonial regime was not merely tolerant of Muslims as it actually relied upon the collaboration with Muslim Saints in order to extend its hegemony.  To achieve this, the colonial regime permitted the existence of institutions of Muslim civil society and worked towards establishing a path of accommodation with Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba and other Muslim Saints.  But this is not how the Murids remember colonialism.  The Prayer of the Two Rakaas remembers French rule as inimical to Islam.  Speakers at the Maggal suggest that the French in fact wanted to eliminate Bamba, whose fate was in reality decided by Allah.  The Prayer of the Two Rakaas is thus a political act that performs spiritual superiority over the secular state.  To the pilgrims, it communicates that civic engagement emanates from submission to the Saint rather than the State.  That the Prayer conveys a historical subjectivity is undisputable.

26Yet while the Murid disciples congregate at the square in front of the Governor’s palace and perform their Prayer of Two Rakaas, the Murid leadership is assembled at the palace, together with representatives of the Senegalese government.  How the co-presence of Murid leadership and Senegalese government should be read is not obvious.  Should it be read as a re-enactment of the trial and the historical event by which the Saint was condemned to exile, with the Senegalese government re-presenting the Conseil privé and the Murid leadership the Saint?  Or does their co-presence signal the collaboration between the Murid leadership and the colonial government that flourished under colonial rule, and its continuation in the present? The colonial and postcolonial governments have always attended important Murid festivals.  The co-presence of Murid leadership and government could therefore be seen as a representation of the structure of a political alliance, but could also be read as the historical consequence of the prayer by the Saint.  There are indications that the Maggal should indeed be read as a sequence.  After the Prayer the disciples return to their minibuses while the Murid leadership and the Ministers feast on a lavish banquet.  The conspicuous consumption of meat, once the prerogative of the Wolof nobility, seems now appropriated by the Murid leadership and legitimised by the Prayer.  This banquet may remember the prerogative of conspicuous consumption as the historical consequence of the Prayer.

27There are reasons to assume that the Prayer does not only refer to the colonial relationship between Murids and the colonial administration, but even to the internal structure of the precolonial Wolof kingdoms.  In these kingdoms kings surrounded themselves with slave warriors (ceddo), “traditionalists” reputed for their refusal of Islam.  However, even though ceddo and Muslims were antagonists in many respects, there were important exchanges of services.  As Searing (2002: 8) reminds us, “ceddo dedicated themselves to government and warfare, the Muslims to education and agriculture”.  Moreover, “[m]uslims received gifts of land, slaves, and cattle from the ceddo in exchange for rituals and prayers that legitimated their power”.  While rulers and Muslims tended to avoid each other, they clearly depended on each other.  And although their relations were subject to historical contingency (Babou 2007: 20-32), the Maggal of Saint-Louis is in many ways a re-enactment of this historical pact.

28In fact, the Murid Maggal is such a powerful performance precisely because of the ambivalence of its historical referents.  It remembers the relationship between Wolof kings and Muslims; the trial of the Saint at the Governor’s palace; the Saint’s act of defiance and his subsequent incarceration; the historical collaboration between the Murid leadership and the colonial government and its continuation in postcolonial Senegal; and finally, it remembers the prayer as the catalyst of national independence.  The Prayer is a ritual constituted of memories of different historical moments, all remembered at once (Argenti 2007).  It produces a palimpsest of temporalities which condense past and present in space, re-membering the nation in the present.  The Maggal is truly a technology of memory (De Jong & Rowlands 2007).

  • 18 For another Senegalese example of the production of political subjectivity that merges ethnic subje (...)

29As a palimpsest of temporalities, the Maggal generates several subjectivities.  First, the Maggal reinforces among the disciples their unconditional submission to the Saint as a condition to every other act, a condition for history to happen.  Second, the Maggal generates a subjectivation of the disciples as both disciples to the Murid leadership and subjects to the modern State.  The co-presence of politicians clearly suggests that the Maggal re-members the nation as a co-performance of the Murid leadership, the Senegalese government and their disciples/subjects.  The Maggal does not constitute the pilgrims as either disciples or subjects, but as disciples and subjects at once18.  Third, to the extent that the Maggal remembers the Prayer and its historical consequences, it does not remember civic rights. As the agency of the pilgrims emanates from their re-enactment of a prayer, not from their vote, the Maggal deliberately forgets agency through political activity and generates a political subjectivity which is fundamentally religious.
Since its first performance in 1976, the Maggal of Saint-Louis has witnessed a few changes but recently, a more radical transformation of its significance has taken place.  This transformation is due to the changing political situation in Senegal.  In 2000 Abdoulaye Wade was elected President of the Republic of Senegal.  He is the first President since Independence who has openly professed membership of the Murid brotherhood.  The President of the Republic is a self-confessed disciple of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba.  In his absence from the 2004 Prayer Wade was—as already mentioned—represented by the regional Governor.  After the Prayer the bard of the Murid leadership addressed the President as “the talibé (disciple) of our grand-father (Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba)”.  The bard also reminded the audience that after his election (and before swearing his oath of allegiance at the National Assembly), the President had travelled to Touba to thank the Khalif général and the Murid brotherhood for their support during the electoral campaign (Villalón 2004).  Seen by many Senegalese as a controversial act, this open acknowledgement of debt to the brotherhood is in the context of the Prayer invoked as proof of the President’s allegiance to the Muridiyya.  And this allegiance (and debt) is not to be misunderstood as merely symbolic.  The bard went on to invoke that the previous government had always supported the Maggal, but its gifts of rice and money had been embarrasingly small in comparison to the gifts they received of the current government of Abdoulaye Wade.
The postcolonial governments of Senegal have always relied on their association with the Murid brotherhood and this association has actually provided the most potent legitimation of the postcolonial state.  But while the Catholic President Léopold Sédar Senghor and the Muslim President Abdou Diouf never submitted themselves as disciples to the Murid leadership, the disciple Wade did.  The submission of the President to Bamba is a novelty in an old pattern of co-presence.  It can therefore be argued that the Prayer remembers colonial forms of collaboration and their postcolonial transformations.  The Prayer does not remember the past as history, it re-members the present to make history (Fabian 1996; Lambek 2002; De Jong 2008, 2009).

Time and the Nation

30The Maggal re-members the nation within a set of different temporalities, but not as historicism (Bhabha 1994).  The nation is not represented as a product of history, but as a product of the Prayer.  The pilgrimage is more specifically a performance of the very foundation of the nation, that is, his act of defiance—the prayer—through which Bamba saved Islam and reclaimed Senegal from its colonial government.  What came after is merely history.  I say this without irony, because the establishment of history and the genealogical understanding of the nation are to be seen as forms of nationalism peculiar to Europe and America (Anderson 1991: 192-199).  To understand the nation as a historical tradition of serial continuity, Anderson suggests, is a solution to nationalism invented by those who were historically removed from the act of its foundation.  In Senegal, however, it is still possible to “recapture/The first fine careless rapture” (ibid.: 195).  The Prayer celebrates Senegal’s independence as a result of Bamba’s prayer rather than the historical consequence of colonialism and political emancipation.  The Senegalese nation emerges through a re-organisation of the various temporalities enacted in the Prayer as yet another of the Saint’s miracles. Murid subjectivity imagines Senegal as the product of Bamba’s baraka.

  • 19 See note 4 for a list of publications on Maggal in Senegal.
  • 20 It is important to realise that in this memoryscape most of Senegal’s territory is marginalised, or (...)

31The Maggal of Saint-Louis is merely one in a series of commemorations in which the life of the Saint is remembered in the present, the most important of which is the Grand Maggal of Touba (Coulon 1999)19.  In the sequence of the Murid Maggals, the Maggal of Saint-Louis refers to the arrest and trial of Bamba, whereas the Maggal of Touba relates to his departure to exile in Gabon.  They do not so much differ in what they remember, as where they remember it.  While Touba is the holy city of the brotherhood, Saint-Louis is remembered as the capital of the colonial government that requires purification.  In the Murid calendar of commemorations, the Maggal of Saint-Louis is clearly subordinate to the Grand Maggal.  By taking part in Saint-Louis’ Maggal the national government inserts itself in a Murid memoryscape, subordinates itself to that memoryscape and subjects itself to Touba—the seat of the Murid leadership.  Indeed, in Senegal the Murid calendar of commemorations is of far greater weight than the annual celebration of national independence on the 4th of April.  While the Grand Maggal is anticipated for weeks and generates a general effervescence, Independence day is just another occasion to go out and have fun.
Yet, there are some interesting incongruities to this.  First of all, the Murid memoryscape is clearly spatialised around the various tests and trials of the Saint’s life and thus focused on the region of Baol—which is not co-terminous with the Senegalese nation-state—and the moments of confrontation with the colonial administration.  In the Murid memoryscape the space of colonial memory replaces the territory of the Senegalese nation-state (Appadurai 1996)20.  Second, while the commemorations of all other Maggal take place according to the Muslim calendar, the Maggal of Saint-Louis always happens on the fifth of September of the Gregorian calendar. This commemoration therefore inscribes itself in a temporal frame shared with Paris, New York and Tokyo.  Interestingly, while the Murid Maggal of Saint-Louis may be considered a composite of different temporalities—embodied in the re-enactment—that remembers the nation as palimpsest, this palimpsest of temporalities is itself framed by colonialism and the global time of modular nationalism.  It is in this sense—and others, undoubtedly—that the Murid Maggal engenders a subjectivity which is peculiar to the members of the Murid brotherhood, consisting of a complex consciousness of belonging to different time-spaces.  Indeed, the Murid Maggal of Saint-Louis engenders a postcolonial subjectivity which recognizes Touba as the centre of the world—and a Muslim centre of the world—to which Paris, New York and Tokyo are peripheral.

Newspaper clipping attached to the door of a carpenter shop in Saint-Louis

Newspaper clipping attached to the door of a carpenter shop in Saint-Louis
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1 This article is part of a larger project that will result in a monograph provisionally titled Remembering the Nation: Heritage and Memory in Postcolonial Senegal. Fieldwork for this project was conducted in 2003, 2004, and 2005.  I attended the Maggal of 2003 and 2004 and I interviewed Madické Wade, founder of the Saint-Louis Maggal.  Fieldwork was funded by The British Academy and the Economic and Social Research Council, for which I am most grateful.  Research leave of the University of East Anglia, partly funded with a generous grant by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, has enabled me to write this article. I would like to thank the Senegalese government, and in particular Dr. H. Bocoum, for allowing me to conduct my research.  Finally, my research had not been as successful as it was without the assistance of Abas Kane, who has been very helpful and whose advice was most insightful.  Earlier versions of this article were presented at a number of occasions, including the 2005 AEGIS conference at SOAS, the West-Africa Seminar at UCL, the Pitt-Rivers Museum, the University of Chicago, the University of Amsterdam and the SRU Seminar at UEA. I would like to thank all those who made helpful suggestions, Nicholas Argenti and Malika Kraamer in particular.

2 Since van Gennep’s (1960) seminal interpretation of rituals as “rites of passage”, rituals have been attributed the power to transform their participants.  Pilgrimages thus offer their participants the possibility to travel from the present to the past and to return to the present in a transformed state.  For examples of how pilgrimages enable “healing”, see Kugelmass (1996), Ebron (1999), Dubisch (2004), Basu (2007).  Pilgrimage enables pilgrims to travel through time and to transform the temporalities of past and present.

3 In Wolof maggal literally means “celebration”.  In contrast to the hajj, attendance at a maggal is not one of the five muslim obligations but at some occasions the Murid brotherhood has suggested that attendance of the Grand Maggal of Touba can substitute the hajj to Mecca (Villalón 1994: 422).  Sociologically, the Maggal of Saint-Louis can justifiably be considered a pilgrimage.

4 For discussions of other Maggal in Senegal, including the Grand Maggal of Touba, see Villalòn (1994, 1995), Coulon (1999), Bava & Guèye (2001) Guèye (2002), Cruise O’Brien (2003), Evers Rosander (2004) and Babou (2007).  To my knowledge, the Maggal of Saint-Louis is only briefly discussed by Villalón (1994: 418) and Cruise O’Brien (2003: 88-89).  My analysis of the Maggal of Saint-Louis resembles Coulon’s analysis of the Grand Maggal of Touba (1999), although I use the concept of “pilgrimage” in a different way.  In Coulon’s structural-functionalist analysis the pilgrimage is framed as Turnerian “anti-structure”, thus minimizing its impact on the structure of society.  Anderson (1991), however, has argued that the pilgrimage—defined as travel along a circumscribed route through a particular territory—made nationalist imagination possible in the first place.  In other words, national society may not be conceivable without pilgrimage.  I try to analyse the Maggal of Saint-Louis as constitutive of the Senegalese nation.  For an application of Anderson’s model to the making of Casamance nationalism, see Foucher (2002).  In his analysis of the political significance of Maggal and other Muslim festivals in Senegal, Villalón (1994) has suggested that these rituals mediate between the religious and the political spheres.  In contrast, I suggest that they merge religious and political subjectivation.

5 I have not conducted any historical research.  This section is entirely based on the published research by Johnson (1971), Diouf (1999) and Robinson (2000).

6 The Muridiyya has been the subject of numerous studies, both in French, English and Wolofal.  An incomplete but “canonical” list of these studies includes the works by Babou (2007), Cruise O’Brien (1971, 1975, 2003), Copans (1980), Coulon (1981), Guèye (2002), Pezeril (2008), Roberts & Nooter Roberts (2003), Villalón (1995).  This is not to mention the numerous scholarly articles dedicated to the subject or the book chapters in volumes on Senegal or Sufi Islam.

7 See Cruise O’Brien (1971), Klein (1998), Robinson (2000), Searing (2002). There is considerable unanimity about this, although opinions differ on how many liberated slaves actually fled to Murid villages.  Searings suggests that the Murid daaras incorporated slaves as well as other landless youth.  He thus suggests that the growth of Murid daaras should be seen as part of wider dynamic: “Murid migrations were a variation on a larger theme.  Slaves from inside and outside the Wolof zone were among the first to take advantage of the new opportunities. The migrations of runaway slaves gradually merged into the larger movements of migration that created new villages and zones of settlement” (Searing 2002: 261).

8 The number of articles, dissertations and books published on the Murid diaspora is vast and rapidly growing.  For a good overview of the literature (and interesting argument that corroborates the argument pursued here) I refer to Riccio (2006).

9 This confirms our hypothesis that in Africa, memory seems directed against the public sphere (Rowlands & De Jong 2007).

10 For a study on the Baye Fall that focuses on their ethics and position within the Murid brotherhood, see Pezeril (2008).

11 Cruise O’Brien (1971: 156-157) already noticed that Baye Fall often act as a sort of militia or as body-guards, for instance at the Grand Maggal of Touba.

12 For a discussion of the proceedings of the Conseil privé, see Babou (2007: 126-127).

13 The historical accounts differ as to who misled the colonial administration to arrest and exile Bamba.  The American historian James Searing (2002: 77) suggests that the foundation of Murid villages in Bawol led to the emigration of Wolof peasants and slaves: “This was the threat that Wolof chiefs in Kajoor tried to eliminate by using their influence with the French.”  The Senegalese historian Cheikh Anta Babou (2007: 124), however, opines that “there were no potent political or economic reasons for the colonial administration of Senegal to arrest Amadu Bamba and dismantle the tariqa he founded”.  He concludes that “[w]hat happened in August 1895 was the result of personal politics of subordinate administrators who successfully turned their own political agenda into official colonial policy” (ibid.: 126).

14 Madické Wade (1987) is the author of various tracts and books on Muridism, including Destinée du mouridisme.

15 Here, it should also be noted that the date of the Grand Maggal of Touba was also changed, in 1946 (Coulon 1999: 200).  The timing of the Maggal and the development of a Murid memory scape, has been a matter of trial and error.

16 Coulon (1999: 202) observes that the presence of state officials at the Grand Maggal of Touba is a custom dating back to the colonial period.  The Maggal was an occasion for the colonial government and the Murid leadership to demonstrate their mutual recognition, a custom that was retained after Senegal’s independence.  Coulon (ibid.: 203) furthermore suggests that observing a Maggal is an excellent means of analysing the relationship between the Murid leadership and the State.

17 The young man was correct in stating that the Mali Federation acquired its independence on 4 April 1960 (Hesseling 1985: 173).  The Mali Federation was dramatically dissolved on the 20th of August 1960.  In Senegal the abrogation was formalised by means of three law projects, one of which proclaimed the independence of Senegal (Ndiaye 1980: 139).  I have not found confirmation that this law was adopted and signed on the 5th of September, but that is certainly a possibility.  On that day, Léopold Sédar Senghor was elected President of the Republic of Senegal.

18 For another Senegalese example of the production of political subjectivity that merges ethnic subjectivity with citizenship see De Jong (2007).  In the participation of politicians in Jola and Mandinko initiation rituals and masquerades, the distinctions between the requirements of citizenship and ethnicity often blur. In his analysis of the political significance of maggals and other Muslim festivals in Senegal, Villalón (1994) has suggested that these rituals mediate between the religious and the political spheres.  I suggest that they merge religious and political subjectivation.  See also the discussion in endnote 4.

19 See note 4 for a list of publications on Maggal in Senegal.

20 It is important to realise that in this memoryscape most of Senegal’s territory is marginalised, or at least remains unacknowledged (Diouf 2001; Cruise O’Brien et al. 2002).

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Table des illustrations

Titre Saint-Louis
Crédits (from Saint-Louis, Sénégal. Plan de la ville. Éd. Librairie-papeterie Wakhatilene, Dakar)
Fichier image/jpeg, 105k
Titre Banner with effigy of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba on a public building at the Place Faidherbe
Fichier image/jpeg, 64k
Titre Effigies of Murid Saints for sale on the sidewalks of the Place Faidherbe
Fichier image/jpeg, 81k
Titre Murid flags on the Pont Faidherbe
Fichier image/jpeg, 44k
Titre Statue of Governor Faidherbe at the Place Faidherbe
Fichier image/jpeg, 106k
Titre Bamba’s prayer during his trial. Painting by Tapha Seck
Fichier image/jpeg, 63k
Titre Newspaper clipping attached to the door of a carpenter shop in Saint-Louis
Fichier image/jpeg, 70k
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Référence électronique

Ferdinand de Jong, « Remembering the Nation », Cahiers d’études africaines [En ligne], 197 | 2010, mis en ligne le 10 mai 2012, consulté le 23 mars 2017. URL :

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Ferdinand de Jong

University of East Anglia, Norwich.

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