The arts are not always in a prominent place on the political agenda in Africa, Latin-America and Asia. Nevertheless, an increasing number of governments recognise the importance of culture in itself and in connection to social and economic development. Part twelve in a series on cultural policy in non-Western countries.


January 2006 -

In 1960, the distinguished poet and philosopher Léopold Sédar Senghor led Senegal to independence. Since that time, the country has been playing an important role in the West African arts, thanks to its biannual arts festival Dak’Art, its musicians such as Youssou N’Dour, and the Gorée Diaspora Festival that has been held for over 30 years now.

The National Programme for the Development of Culture (Le Programme National de Développement de la Culture, PNDC) launched in 2005 by the Ministry for Culture and Historical Heritage is founded on two pillars, namely unity and diversity. Culture is something that creates a sense of community at both a national and regional level. At the same time, Senegal recognises the importance of cultural diversity in a world that is undergoing globalisation. The Ministry is trying to stimulate the cultural sector, to retain Senegal’s heritage and to promote Senegal as Africa’s cultural crossroads. The national culture programme is decentralised in nature, with the local culture offices being charged with its implementation and with the organisation of cultural activities in their region.

In addition to the national culture programme, there are the ‘grands projects culturels du Chef de L’Etat’ that President Me Abdoulaye Wade is overseeing. These presidential projects include the construction of a national theatre and academy of art in the capital city of Dakar and the foundation of a Museum of Black Civilisations (Musée des Civilisations Noires), the latter also being something that Senghor strived for.

One important piece of Senegal’s heritage is the former slave island Gorée. Senegal has now set up the Gorée Institute there, a research institute founded in 1992 after the historical meeting between the ANC (banned in South Africa during the apartheid era) and progressive white Afrikaners, as well as the Gorée Almadies Memorial designed by the Italian architect Ottavio di Blasi and under construction since September 2003. This futuristic cultural centre, a tribute to the millions of Africans who were victims of the slave trade, contains a documentation archive, concert halls and art galleries.