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Sunny Hopes In the East

What is it that is ours? This question has always plagued my mind. And I always ask myself this during my intimate peregrinations and my travels. Each border is a barrier, of course, but it is also a link between people and cities and a connection between emotions, the most striking of which are those that bring us back to a time that has definitely passed and that we would nevertheless like to make happen again. In vain.

Are mine in Pikine in the kingdom of my childhood? In Fouta, land that fertilised the seed of our ancient lineage of Yirlaabe? In Dakar my city of adoption and heart? Or, possibly, mine are everywhere, beyond borders, ages and circumstances and chance. This interrogation as poignant as a fatal wound arises again here in the heart of the country of Sufi mystics, among the Ba, who have been making the divine word resound in the middle of the forest and the mounds of stones for almost a century.

Dusty morning as usual. The Word resounds everywhere. Thierno Tidiane Ba blessed the massive, compact, teeming crowd, the crowd of disciples on long journeys, that of the hopes placed in the saliva of the holy man. Pieces of God’s wood, of various origins, social conditions and colours, withdrew from the world for ten days to pray. Isn’t it said that the world is held by the mouth of those who read the Talmud?

Away from their comfort and their usual conveniences, men -there is no female presence at the Daaka – prayed in communion and amongst themselves. Leaving the ephemeral city of Daaka to pass through the holy city of Madina Gounass, the emotion is perceptible on the tired, dusty faces on which the red eyes tell of the pain of the ordeal. The red of the sand becomes the norm and no complaints are allowed or even possible. To live is to know how to suffer in silence.

Suddenly, in Madina Gounass, the long, deformed processions let through tears, laughter, cries of joy and homage to the surname of the men of God who have taken up residence in this furnace in eastern Senegal whose temperatures are a torture for bodies. Women and children line the road and serve water, fruit, bowls of rice and all kinds of small gifts to pilgrims returning to their homes. It’s not Teranga, an overused word that is sometimes even associated with vulgarity. It’s more than that. It is a kind of supreme degree of consciousness of a sacred thing that people here have in common.Something the elders forged with an oath they never betrayed.

I was overwhelmed by this guard of honour, balm to the hearts of believers who had been ten days in the dust and deprivation, who slept on mats thrown on the floor of makeshift shelters. These men whose prayer alone punctuated the days and nights.

And the memories of adolescence resurfaced and the melancholy too and the hope to end. This country will stand despite the merchants of hate and the bold entrepreneurs of chaos. As Abdoul Aziz Diop told me: “Senegal is the country of God.” Madina Gounass is a strong capital. A rampart city, a garrison town of men and women mobilised so that prayer still remains the greatest saving possibility. At a time when people are worried, when some are terrified at the thought of a devastating hurricane that would set our country ablaze ; here scholars remain calm and confident in the power of prayer and the superiority of Good on Evil.

I leave Madina Gounass invaded by torrents of emotions, a multitude of questions and an immense sadness for my loved ones and for the dead to whom we could not say goodbye because of the distance, the distanced paths and the sterile occupations in feverish cities. Here I reviewed mine. And we talked about our deaths during the respective absences. I never thought it possible even envisageable, but my heart took root in Madina Gounass.

The Yirlaabe adorn the court of Thierno Tidiane Ba, himself one of them, with their beautiful presence. The Yirlaabe, the great Sheikh Hamidou Kane warned us in his Ambiguous Adventure, are the guardians of orthodoxy. They know how to speak to shadows, decipher codes and read between the lines of the Holy Scriptures. My people are in Madina Gounass, the land of my deaths and the emotions that shape our trajectory of life together. The Fouta has made a rhizome here.

By Hamidou ANNE – hamidou.anne@lequotidien.sn

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