Zal Sissokho, The Kora Spiderman

Zal Sissokho is a real Kora genius. He has always been living in a musical environment and has been playing music since he was 11. He sings and composes in Mandingue and Wolof languages. Respect, man!
He comes from the large and ancient Sissokho family and plays Kora like a spider weaves its web. A music web in which you get caught from the first notes.

Zal Sissokho must be part of these Senegalese artists who aren’t king in their own land, as I have never seen any monument or street with his name in Dakar.

Zal played in numerous countries, on four continents. In Africa, he played in Senegal, South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Morocco. In Asia, he played in India. In North America, he toured in almost all Canadian provinces and cities, including Kingston (Ontario), where the first Prime Minister comes from: Sir John Alexander Macdonald who was a controversial, definitively very unique man!In North America still, my pal Zal also played in the US and Mexico. And finally, in South America, he regularly plays in Brazil. So often even, that Quebeckers have rather make sure that they treat this talented artist really well, otherwise he might very well move there (I hope I’m wrong, though!).

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From Firs to Baobabs, or when sailing has no border

In Switzerland, I met Kati and Rodolphe, a sweet and generous couple with two children, who like to sail their boat on lakes, seas and rivers.
In 2004, when they were still young and wild, they decided to travel the world with their sailboat to discover new people and cultures. And because they wanted their trip to be fun and meaningful, they contacted a French association called Voiles Sans Frontières (VSF), which literally means Sails Without Borders. This NGO is dedicated to support isolated communities, which can only be reached by sea or river. Since 1997, VSF mainly works with Senegalese populations living along rivers Sine Saloum and Casamance. 1
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Yoff: when the public takes things in hand

The Yoff beach clean up project on World Environment Day, on June 5th, was a huge success. Not only is the beach a lot cleaner than before – the members of Calebasse and the residents of Yoff picked up heaps of trash – the project also raised awareness and led to consideration of how important cleanliness is to health.
As a matter of fact, Yoff beach is kind of an open air dump. Everybody here knows that, but nobody actually says it: lots of people from other neighborhoods come to Yoff to dump their garbage, to the dismay of the Lébous who live here. As the women selling fish on the beach told me, their customers are fewer and farther between, because the reeking garbage drives them away. Not to mention the negative effects it has on the health of the women and children who spend their days on the beach, the sheep that eat the plastic lying around… And, of course, all that filth ends up getting into the surrounding homes, carrying diseases in with it.

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Fatoumata Sy, the doll maker

Let me introduce you to  Fatoumata Sy,  Mom’s tourondo(1) and our “real life” mom, because she’s the one who makes us, with Ibrahima Niang‘s help. These two craftspeople team up to create Senegalese dolls.

Fatoumata Sy lives and works on Goree island, several kilometers off the coast from Dakar. This is also where SaDunya’s founders met her for the first time, when she was selling dolls in her little stall. We, the Ndiaye family dolls, had already taken shape in their heads, but they hadn’t found the right person to craft us. The quality of Fatoumata’s work, along with her generosity and kindness, won them over and, after their first meeting, they went back to her to ask her to create the characters they had dreamed up for SaDunya. That is how we were born.
Fatoumata first cuts and sews our clothes, and then dresses us. Next, she attends to the finishing touches, such as grafting (adding) my hair to my head, doing Mamie’s braids – she braids at the speed of lightening – and setting the gourd on my mom’s head.
My favorite part is when she combs and combs my hair after fastening it to my head, to make it very shiny and smooth, and make me beautiful.

(1) In Senegal, a child often takes the name of somebody close to the family, making him or her the child’s “tourondo” (namesake).

Aby Ndiaye