Senegal is one of the biggest torch bearers for showcasing cultural events on the African continent. The country is host to several of the famous traditions in Africa, including the much celebrated St. Louis International Jazz Festival, one of the top jazz festivals in the world. If you’re planning a trip to the country, it’s a must that you hit up some of the fantastic events. Here are 10 festivals in Senegal that you should know about.
1. Le Fanal, Saint Louis
For a Carnaval-like celebration in Africa, it doesn’t get much better than Le Fanal (the lantern) in Saint Louis. This colorful festival goes all the way back to the 18th century and is based on a ritual that some of the rich families used to participate in. During the event, people get dressed up in elaborate costumes and decorate gigantic lanterns that float down the colonial streets of the city.
2. Dak’Art Biennale, Dakar
Occurring every other May, this festival hosts some of the best contemporary artists from Senegal and beyond. It runs for an entire month and usually hosts around 200 exhibitions in a large industrial area of Dakar. Visitors can find additional artwork on display in the surrounding art galleries and hotels. The next event will be in May 2016.
3. Saint Louis International Jazz Festival, Saint Louis
This music festival is undoubtedly the best known in the country and one of the most popular in all of Africa. Each May, the event hosts music acts from around the world for a week full of concerts, talks and workshops. While the festival originally started with only jazz artists, it has expanded to include blues and soul as well.
4. Festi’waal, Saint Louis
If you like music, cultural exploration and lots of dancing, the Festi’waal event is going to be right up your alley. This event brings people together from all over the country and west Africa to share their stories through fun dance routines, traditional songs, and gyrating music.
5. Gorée Diaspora Festival, Dakar
This festival looks back at the dark times of Senegal and focuses on the descendants of the slaves that were forced to leave their African homeland from Gorée Island. People are encouraged to rediscover their roots as they watch the numerous dancing and musical performances. There are also many conferences and meetings during the event where prominent speakers discuss the history of slavery.
6. Rapandar Festival, St. Louis
Now over 10 years old, this music festival regularly features some of the best hip-hop, rap and reggae artists in Senegal. The four day event has been increasing in size and has surpassed over 15,000 festival-goers per day. At the 2015 event, there were over 200 artists performing at concerts, bars and clubs, including cool acts such as 10,000 Problems, who also organized a music production workshop for young people in the city.
7. Kaay Fecc, Dakar
Dance enthusiasts have yet another Senegalese festival to enjoy — Kaay Fecc. This festival runs in the late spring and celebrates both traditional and contemporary dancing from around the world.
8. Senegal Independence Day, Dakar
On April 4, 1959, Senegal became independent from France to form a country that lasted little over a year, the Federation of Mali, which eventually became the country we know today in 1960. During the event, a large parade of drill teams and military officers march down the streets of Dakar for one of the biggest celebrations in the country.
9. Abéné Festival, Casamance
This is one of the longest festivals in Senegal and includes 10 days of drumming in the Casamance region. During the event, you can see djembe and percussion players playing rhythmic tunes while people dance around. There are also traditional wrestling matches nightly. It starts at the end of December and runs all the way through the New Year.
10. Senegal International Film Festival, Dakar
This yearly event is the largest film festival in the country and has been running since 1999. During the event, filmmakers from across the country and the African diaspora have their films screened at museums, cultural centers, restaurants and more throughout the city. Who knows, you might get to see an upcoming director before they make it in Hollywood.