Dear Mr. President, this IS Africa!

President Obama Visits Senegal - Photo:

President Obama Visits Senegal – Photo:

Happy Thursday!

I hope everyone is doing well on this rainy side of the blogosphere…And today is an exciting day for us Senegalese people, as Senegal is welcoming US President Mr. Obama himself and his family on our native soil. As a native Senegalese woman living in America, I feel the pride of having the two countries closest to my heart, my country of birth and my country of residence, coming together in such a symbolic way.

As I’m reading on Facebook accounts of the  monumental preparations in Senegal for President Obama’s arrival from some of my friends back home, what I can sense is not just a feeling of excitement to have our country honored by President Obama’s visit, but also a mixed sense of separateness between the reality, the beautiful reality of our native Senegal, and what our local authorities are choosing to show of it. A few friends of mine complained overtly online about the extra security in the capital city of Dakar, all with an almost-curfew state for inhabitants, whereby are sensing that they are somewhat being kept at bay and not exactly allowed to share in this historic moment. From what I can read and what my friends are sharing with me, everything has been made to look so perfect, so ”sterilized”, so different from what the day-to-day reality of life in Senegal is… A dear friend of mine pointed out on her Facebook page, and rightfully so, that  our national thiebou djeunn dish will have to be sterilized first by our authorities before being served to anyone on the official delegation…

While some of the accounts on Facebook and the social media are straight up hilarious, others do shed a light on what we, as Africans, are willing to show of who we really are, and what our culture is truly about. As much as I understand that one should clean their house before welcoming a guest as important and beloved as President Obama, there is also something to be said about displaying the reality of who we are as a people. Our Senegal, our real Senegal, is beautiful, and the most beautiful part of it actually, is the real stuff, the raw fruits and vegetables sold on the side of the road by village ladies who have not the slightest idea about the rules of hygiene, the tasty “maddeu”, “bouye” and green mangoes we all grew up on after school, the communal bowl adorned with our national “thiebou djeunn”, crowded with one too many (clean) hands passing around pieces of fish and vegetables, the sweets sold on the streets wrapped in greasy newspapers, the “talibes” children begging on the street, their beautiful smiles adorning their unwashed faces despite the stark reality of lack and poverty in some neighborhoods…That IS Senegal, that’s the Senegal I grew up in, the Africa I loved from birth, and the one I really did not have to fear for my health or life at any moment…And none of it has anything to do, even remotely, with the brilliant motorcades and official convoys I saw pictures of online, or the pristine streets and avenues reminiscent of the Champs Elysees…

My Senegal, my Africa is not perfect, but it is real, and until we dare to start showing the beautiful, vulnerable side of it, we may not learn to appreciate it ourselves…


Love Always,

Miss Awa.

1 comment for “Dear Mr. President, this IS Africa!

  1. Walter lopes
    June 27, 2013 at 9:47 am

    I am a proud African I hope this visit sparks a little change that we need in our homeland I absolutely love the post .Thank you for shining a light on this trip
    Best regards
    Walter lopes

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