In Senghor’s Shadow: Art, Politics and the Avant-Garde in Senegal, 1960-1995

In Senghor’s Shadow is a study of modern art in post-Independence Senegal. Elizabeth Harney examines the art that flourished during and after the administration of Léopold Sédar Senghor, the country’s first president who stepped down in 1980.

As a major philosopher and poet of Négritude, Senghor envisioned an active and revolutionary role for modern artists, and created a well-funded system for supporting their work. Harney takes a critical look at the canon of art, known as the Ecole de Dakar, produced under Senghor’s aegis with the aim of expressing Senegal’s postcolonial identity through art and sheds new light on the president’s system of art schools and exhibitions. Her book expands scholarship on global modernisms by highlighting the distinctive cultural history of Senegalese modernism and the complex and often contradictory choices made by its artists. Heavily illustrated with nearly one hundred images, including some in color, In Senghor’s Shadow surveys the work of a range of Senegalese artists, including painters, muralists, sculptors, and performance-based groups—from those who worked at the height of Senghor’s patronage system to those who graduated from art school in the early 1990s. Harney reveals how, in the 1970s, avant-gardists contested Negritude beliefs by breaking out of established artistic forms. During the 1980s and 1990s, artists such as Moustapha Dimé, Anta Germaine Gaye, and Kan-Si engaged with avant-garde methods and local artistic forms to challenge both Senghor’s legacy and the broader art world’s understandings of cultural syncretism. Ultimately, Harney’s work illuminates the production and reception of modern Senegalese art within the global arena.

Durham /London, Duke University Press Book, 2004


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