Asalaa Maalekum, everyone! This week I pulled up a photo from early in my semester in Senegal. This picture was taken on Mardi Gras at my internship in Guediawaye. Most of you have probably heard of Mardi Gras in relation to the giant festival that happens every year in New Orleans. Mardi Gras, or ‘Fat Tuesday’ is supposed to be a festival for eating heavy, delicious foods and partying it up before the Christian tradition of fasting for Lent. Though Senegal is 90% Muslim, the country is known for having excellent harmony between their Christian and Muslim peoples. The holiday has evolved into something resembling what we in the U.S. celebrate for Halloween – all the kids get dressed up in whatever kind of costume they want, and later in the evening are allowed to go up to people to dance and sing for coins, candy, and sugar cubes. These girls above are dressed up in more traditional outfits, with face makeup reminiscent of tattoos indigenous to the Fuulani – one of the most wide-spread and populous ethnic groups in West Africa. What do you think of these outfits?
Ayan: Did you have a lot of fun there [at your brother’s wedding]? Yes! I had a lot of fun. It was lovely to see my whole family so animated and excited about something so sweet and unifying.
Grace: Do Senegalese weddings have cake or miniature bride and groom? Not to my knowledge, no! But as the world becomes more globalized (meaning, information and advertising is available all over the world and styles and customs from the U.S. and Europe can be found in any big city), more ‘American’ or ‘European’ things become more popular because they are advertised as being cool, or important, or valuable. Therefore, it’s possible that some weddings do happen with cakes and miniatures in Senegal! I would love to talk more about this in person.
Ayan: Why do they smear that stuff in each other’s face? It is my understanding that typically, they are supposed to simply feed each other the lakh to symbolize being united as one – much like we in the U.S. sometimes have customs like sharing rings, saying vows, and throwing a bouquet. The idea behind getting it on the other person’s face is more of a joking tradition, to see who will ‘be in control’ or ‘make the decisions’ in the relationship for the rest of their marriage. It’s supposed to be silly and fun. 🙂
Grace: I’d be jealous if my husband had another wife. Why is that, Grace? What do you think you would do if it was culturally expected to have a co-wife? What do you think the women in Senegal do about having co-wives?
Thanks for the questions this week, everyone! Ba beneen yoon, insh’allah.