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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Wait, Why Are You Going To West Africa?

So as you may have already read from my previous post, I'm going to Senegal, by way of Cape Verde. I have been interested in Africa, specifically West Africa for many years. The first country that I really wanted to visit was Ghana. Then I became interested in Benin, because of the connection with Haitians. Most slaves that became known as Haitians were purchased in Benin. I've been told that many of our traditions, particularly our Vodoun practices are derivatives of Beninese vodoun culture. There's also a town in Benin called Ayitine (sp?) which some believe is why Haiti claims that name. I was determined to make it to Africa, it was just a matter of picking a specific country and going with a specific purpose. I figured a francophone country would be the best introduction as I have a francophone background (Haiti is a former French colony), and I reasoned that it would be a great way for me to be forced to practice my elementary French. When I realized that the African Studies department at UMass Boston was hosting a two part conference in Cape Verde and Senegal, I knew that it was now or never. The conference in Senegal was on Leopold Senghor and his legacy. Senghor was the first president of Senegal and he was also a renowned poet. Cape Verde's conference would focus on Amilcar Cabral, a freedom fighter who led the fight to liberate his African country people from the clutches of Portuguese imperialism. Today marks the 40th anniversary of his assassination. I didn't know a thing about either man prior to the trip and I was excited and eager to learn about these two great thinkers who sacrificed so much for the betterment of their respective people and countries.

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