“Rrepatriate most of our collective intelligence with artists, in a profusion of genres, and create sensitive intellectual communities”, said Felwine Sarr to qualify the ambition of the Ateliers de la Pensée, fourth edition, which was held in this cool season in Dakar, at the Museum of Black Civilizations. At Duke University, where he teaches in the United States (but currently on sabbatical), Felwine Sarr works on the ecology of knowledge or how the corpora of music, orality and other endogenous knowledge contribute to what we are led to to know. However, it is this line of the relationship to the sensitive that has triumphed over the meetings, regardless of the quality of the academic, philosophical, economic, anthropological, etc. interventions.
A lexicon is born
From March 23 until the middle of the Senegalese night from March 26 to 27, this trip gave birth to a real lexicon, according to the expression of Achille Mbembé, co-founder of the event. A lexicon (see box below, with the words of each other) that some have found mysterious, intimidating, even incomprehensible where words such as cosmopoetics, cosmopolitics circulated, declined from one round table to another ( 14 sessions in all) on the 2022 theme of “Cosmologies of the link and forms of life”. But when we saw how much the 2019 edition around the word devulnerabilization (almost unpronounceable) carried with it what was about to fall on the world – the Covid pandemic -, we remain particularly attentive to what is being said at Dakar at the workshops! After a fanfare start, focusing on utopias, the nation, borders, the Thursday morning round table brought together writers of great talent: Wilfried N’Sondé daring to make plankton his next novel hero (see below), David Diop, evoking the richness of the writings of European travelers and naturalists as the hero of The Gate of the Journey of No Return, his latest book. And Mbougar Sarr, the Goncourt 2021 prize, seeking the link that unites the author, read by his reader.
Territories and solidarities
More pragmatic, the link required by solidarity with the environment was mentioned by Nadine Machikou in her Cameroon where the “OTS” (We endured too much) protest, but to what extent can we help the other? While continuing to take care of yourself? Or the poignant commitment of a Fadel Barro – leader of the Y’en a marre movement, who recounted his work in Kaolack in close contact with the inhabitants to “de-dakarize” this country, ending his speech with this affirmation: ” We will go to defeat again”. This link with the field, the actress Odile Sankara told it in the involvement of the Récréâtrales festival in a district, with its inhabitants. This is enough to rebuild a society where thousands of displaced people arrive in the capital, Ouagadougou, from areas threatened by terrorism in Burkina Faso.
The living and the dead, the cycles of time
Between the living and the dead, as demonstrated by an evening held at the French Institute in Dakar, the connection was very present, and oh so, in the extraordinary performance of the Nigerian Qudus Onikeku inviting the assembly to invite his dead in a danced circle. The cycle of time in his Yoruba culture, he recalled, being that of the circle, a far cry from our western linear time. Time was also a key word in the sessions, and when the poet Dénètem Touam Bona, author of The Wisdom of Lianas – the figure of the liana being taken up on numerous occasions in these workshops – exceeded the one granted to him for his communication, an emotional happening ensued, the room applauding his gesture of resistance to colonial times!
“Learning to think by resonating and not by reasoning”, suggested Séverine Kodjo-Grandvaux, and this is what characterized the meeting between the Congolese dancer and choreographer Faustin Linyekula and the theater woman Carole Karemera from Rwanda. Plants and animals were invited, such as the dog of Parfait D. Akana, who told how to kill this animal for a ritual in his country, Cameroon, does not mean that this gesture is exempt from morality. Exciting. The plants have invited themselves, and a stone too, a talisman of life.
music and bodies
Germaine Acogny narrated and embodied the dance, making the audience stand up and finally let the bodies speak! She spoke surrounded by musicians, fantastic Ray Lema composing a short piece entitled “Thought 22” for this meeting. After what Baba Maal named Hiirde, or cultural vigil, we left off on the prospect of going beyond the notion of abyss to find other links to weave between the African mother earth and the Americas, according to the proposal of Martiniquais Malcom Ferdinand and Felwine Sarr: rather than non- return, imagine an “ocean door” to be opened between peoples. In the meantime, you can click on this link to see or review the debates of these 2022 Workshops. To attend, a Malian student managed to cross the border despite the embargo. And we recognize, present in the public, a young student from Sciences Po Reims, diligent three years ago, and who convinced seven other young girls to come to Dakar to follow the event this year!
On the occasion of the Thought Workshops. If they had to sum up this edition with one word, which one would they choose and why? Some of the participants, from all fields, replied to us.
David Diop in Wolof: “Ku nekk war nga dunndë”, “Everyone must live”. At the end of his communication and the formula sums up everything, in the mouth of one of the Senegalese participants back on his native land.
Carole Karémera chose “seeding”.
Malcom Ferdinand, “encounter”.
Hervé Yamguen, “links”, by linking his art to the word by giving us this drawing
Wasis Diop, “silence”. “What is incredible in this assembly is the silence of 500 people who are listening. I am more challenged by that than by the person speaking, really. This silence, this attention, for hours all the same, and hours, yes, the workshops of thought, for me these are the workshops of silence. »
Ray Lema, “African hope”. “Because I have been living in the West for forty years, I have just been reconnected there with a completely different generation of Africans than the one I left and when I see the level of reflection, it is a momentum towards the top. I was so moved to be invited to the Thinking Workshops, because people have always called me all over the world to play, and this is the first time I’ve been asked to think. »
Dénètem Touam Bona, “tribute to the ancestors”. “A gesture rather than a word. Many of us have paid tribute during this four-day crossing, whether through speeches, music and songs shared, stones rolled from one bank to the other of the body, kaolin applied to the face, a seismic dance tuned to an afrobeat or even a poetic jousting between destitute musicians. Tribute to the ancestors because the movement of life is a textile movement: we never start from nothing, we can only pick up the thread of gestures and lives that precede us, a creative recovery that makes existence a jam endless session from which unheard-of patterns continually emerge. »
Maboula Soumahoro, a disappointment. “That of a search for knowledge, of a refuge yet momentarily found in this domain and which has not weighed sufficiently on the organization of common life, whatever the scale, or on the forms of solidarity, that is to say the themes that interest us and that we explore here. I have in mind here the lack of circulation, and the impossibility of translating this knowledge. Their production, their canonization, their pantheonization and all the mechanisms of exclusion that they engender. Does the satisfaction of my “I” as a “scholar” nourish the collective, the “We” beyond my own person? That is the question. I said it: it is the story of a disillusion. »
Wilfried N’Sonde, “plankton”. “In the end, I am delighted that the plankton, character of my next novel, collateral victim of human industrial activities, had such success during the Thinking Workshops. A number of participants were seduced by the idea that these microscopic beings could inspire people with solutions likely to get them out of the impasse into which the dominant political and social model has precipitated them. This is the illustration of a transdisciplinary event set up on African soil but fundamentally open to the world, which presented a wide range of artistic practices. Dakar offered a space of freedom of speech and intellectual rigor in the service of reflections aimed at not dwelling on the observation of a threatened present, by dedicating itself instead to imagining new paths for the future. »
Tanella Boni, “alive”. “In the center and in the workshops, of everything we have done for the past four days, it is the living word that comes back, considered in a different way, politically in democracy, from an economic, biological, cosmological or cosmopoetic point of view. . When the living is affected, there is no longer any social or family life. The living is what breathes: a society breathes, a policy, a human being of course. And between all this the link that is established can be made by resonance, a vibration between living beings. »
Achille Mbembé, “democracy”. “Where are we with Africa? Not just as a region of the world but as being equally responsible for the world today. What happened to make young people take to the streets today to celebrate the putschists? I think we have to face this event as a challenge to the thought: what happened to us? The democratic project is not foreign to us: it is time that we understood it once and for all, and we must look into the reinvention of democracy as the great philosophical, aesthetic political question of this century. Democracy as a dynamic of the link. »
Gaston Paul Effa, “live” “It’s learning to return to the wisdom of seeing and the intelligence of listening, in a new form of breathing, a mode of exchange between the outside and the inside, which enhances the path to living it is to retune mind and body. Find the right note. »