5 Important Figures of Children’s Literature in Senegal

After combing through Cameroon and Ivory Coast, Senegal is our next stop, let’s explore the Senegalese illustrators and authors who are the pride of children’s literature in this part of the world. As always, we acknowledge that many are involved in the sector; nevertheless, we will more or less respect the criteria previously highlighted when we talked about the Amazons of children’s literature in Côte d’Ivoire.  To open the floor, we pay a deserved tribute to one of the pioneers of children’s books in Africa. 

Fatou Ndiaye Sow

Source : https://aflit.arts.uwa.edu.au/NdiayeSowFatou.html     

Fatou Ndiaye Sow was born in 1956, she completed her primary and secondary education in Senegal after her parents died. It is imperative to note that “she participated in many international activities including the 7th Congress of poets held in Marrakech in 1984, the Poetic Evenings of Struga in Yugoslavia in 1985, the Festival of poetry in Leuven in Belgium in 1986, the Literary Symposium against apartheid in Brazzaville in 1987, the 5th World Congress of PEN-International in Toronto in 1989, the Salon des poètes de Lyon in 1990.”[1]

With regard to children’s literature in particular, the following statement speaks volumes about her status and stature: [2] “She is the symbol of children’s literature in Africa, particularly in Senegal. A teacher by training, Fatou Ndiaye Sow, with a wave of her magic wand, has been able to transport children into a world of stories, poetry, to put it simply: beautiful letters.” Even more impressive, when one takes a tour of the Takam Tikou platform, one discovers with amazement that she has published about 15 works for children between 2000 and 2005; impressive statistics that do not leave one indifferent. Moreover, this journal is named after one of her literary works: Takam-Tikou, I guessed. Among other publications, she has written the following books Le mouton d’Aminata (1996); Takam, Takam Devine mon enfant, devine (1981). Engaged as Murielle Diallo in Côte d’Ivoire, the latter did not meet the requirements under publishing books for children. Indeed, she “created Falia Productions Enfance in March 1995, a structure aiming at promoting youth activities, especially for children, through literature, publishing, audiovisuals, and cinema. 3] Sadly, death visited her in 2005 in New York following a short illness. We deeply remember that, like Jeanne Cavilly in Ivory Coast, she is a pioneer in children’s literature in Africa.

Samba Ndar Cisse

Source : http://almoactu.canalblog.com/archives/2009/04/29/13550331.html

Children’s literature is specific in that it does not only affect authors. Illustrators have an equally important role to play because a good work of children’s literature is one that, among other specificities, creates a link between the textual narrator and the iconic one.  In this regard, it is difficult to talk about comics and illustration in Senegal without mentioning the goldsmith in the field, Cisse Samba Ndar.  The Journal Takam Tikou already reminds us that he has illustrated almost 16 works for children between 2000 and 2015.  The Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF) provides more precise information about his literary works: more than 20 illustrated works and almost 09 works co-authored with other authors. These statistics have the merit to give credit to him that we present no more. We are even more impressed when we consult his brief biography presented in these terms [4]: “Samba Ndar Cissé is a graphic designer consultant and illustrator of works for youth. Selected and present at the Vues d’Afrique 2005 competition of the Angoulême International Comics Festival – Prize for the best comic strip (Human Rights section) Africa e Mediterraneo, Italy 2006 – Present at Kids Comic Con 2011, New York / Philadelphia.” In light of the above, we can afford to say: illustration has a hero in Senegal and his name is Cisse Samba Ndar.

Souleymane Mbodj

 Source : https://web.facebook.com/Souleymane-Mbod1584309931589635/?_rdc=1&_rdr

 Souleymane Mbodj has a completely different profile: he is musician, storyteller and writer at the same time. In addition to being children’s book author with 5 children’s literary works to his credit between 2000 and 2015, he also has this uniqueness and talent when it comes to live storytelling for children through instruments such as the guitar and the Djembe.  This is a remarkable factor in that he is more connected to his target audience [5]. One of his productions published in 2021 on YouTube had over 4500 views.  His performances in French and Wolof transmit ‘edutainment’ content to children.  We have as such, the title sama sopé, a lullaby in Wolof language played with a guitar. He contributed to the influence of several international events, including the Festival of Human Rights and World Cultures of Hay-Les-Roses in 2009. In 2012, he also performed at the Grand Action cinema as part of the “Enfance de l’Art” anniversary [6].

The description of him on the website of the Milan publishing house [7] gives a better idea of his personality: “As a musicologist, he has taught in the field of oral literature, singing and African rhythms at the “Centre de formation des musiciens intervenants de l’université Paris-Sud”. He regularly performs in shows, festivals and classes, both in France and abroad. In 2020, he was named Knight of the National Order of Merit by the Ministry of Education. He lives in Paris.” An even more impressive author of children’s literature did not escape our radar.  

Nafissatou Dia Diouf

Source : http://www.continentpremier.com/?article=1775&magazine=62

In Senegal, Nafissatou Dia Diouf, a world traveler, is quite an icon in terms of her insight and versatility. Introduced to reading at a very early age, a prodigious career was on the horizon. Indeed, “she was immersed in the atmosphere of books and reading from a very early age, mainly influenced by her mother”[8]. After her primary and secondary education crowned by the completion of her Baccalaureate, she flew to France and more precisely to the Michel de Montaigne University in Bordeaux III where she read Applied Foreign Languages with specialization in Business and Commerce. It must be acknowledged that literature has become a passion for her and this justifies her literary and cultural distinctions [9]: “First foreign prize in the 3 hours to write competition (France); Representative of Senegal in the Questions pour un champion spécial langue française in 2001, winner of the young Francophone writer prize in Muret (France), selected by the magazine Notre Librairie (a review of the literatures of the South) as one of the “plumes émergentes ” of African literature. The list of distinctions is far from being exhaustive. 

She surfs easily between the novel, poetry and children’s literature. She nourished the desire to decipher the Internet for children as far as children’s literature is concerned. In this regard, in 2006, she launched a collection for ages 8 and above in Senegal with titles such as I discover … the computer and Cytor & Tic Tic navigate the web. According to the ORISIS platform (Observatoire sur les systèmes d’information, les Réseaux et les Inforoutes au Sénégal), “the aim of this work is to help children understand navigation and messaging. But also and above all to allow children to know what they need to protect themselves from with the Internet, which remains a very attractive tool. 10] She has published a number of other relevant children’s books such as Kidiwi, the curious droplet.  She speaks five languages (Wolof, French, English, Spanish and Italian). Senegal also knows African culture defenders with a weakness for comics.

Kemado Toure

Source : https://web.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=227176470811240&set=a.178183752377179

When it comes to storytelling in Senegal, Kemado Touré is an important figure. Although he is multidisciplinary like most of the preceding children literary authors, a presentation of his profile makes us understand that he has a certain connection with tales: “Poet, storyteller, researcher and essayist, Kémado Touré has distinguished himself in the fight for the defense and promotion of African languages and the revaluation of the oral tradition. A master storyteller with a fertile imagination, Kémado Touré is the author of around twenty books of etiological tales illustrated in comic form. 11] The end of this paragraph says a lot about his personality, and more specifically about his status as an author of children’s literature. One of his literary works that stands out in this genre is the title: Contes sérères. Indeed, this book presents thirty oral texts, as many marvelous tales, tales from the animal world as from the human world, with their flaws and qualities”[12] One cannot talk about the animal world without thinking of the children who love stories of this sort.

 In this register of tales in comics, we can cite the origin of widowhood in the collection Les dits d’hier. In a didactic perspective on the imaginary and African culture, he wrote in the same collection: “Why we do not eat the meat of the hyena or Why we keep the name of the child before his birth.” All these tales have made him a focal person in Senegal. It is possible to view his other literary works whose purpose is always to connect African children to their deep realities on his Facebook account. This particularity in part, makes him an important figure of children’s literature in Senegal.

In summary, this was all about presenting five important authors of Children’s literature in sub-Saharan French-speaking Africa. In view of the above, Senegal as well as Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon have authors who by their literary works bring an added value in the children’s literature sector. 

If you know of other authors in Senegal, please mention them in the comments, quoting some of their works.

About the Author

Christian Elongue

Christian Elongué is the author of “Introduction to Children Literature in Cameroon” (2019) and researcher on children and young adult literature. Dismayed by a lack of black characters in books available to African children, Elongué founded Muna Kalati in 2017 with the goal of building international recognition for African children’s book authors and increasing access to African children literature. Muna Kalati, was founded at a time when African children’s books were poorly promoted, and African authors and illustrators were virtually unknown. In 2018, they started publishing Muna Kalati magazine, which is becoming a reference for writers, publishers and illustrators of children's and Young Adult books, as well as librarians, teachers, editors and parents. Lifelong learner, he holds a postgraduate certificate on children literature (University of Liège, France) and 3 master’s degree

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