Project Title: Photographic Journeys III – Touba
Artist(s): Aliou Mbaye
Date(s): February – March 2010
Location(s): Touba | Senegal
Touba is the spiritual home of the Muridiyya, Senegal’s most prominent and powerful Islamic brotherhood. Built on private land, exempt from taxes, the destination for millions of Muslims during the annual Magal pilgrimage, which commemorates the return from exile of the brotherhood’s founder, Cheikh Amadou Bamba (1850-1927), Touba is many things simultaneously: symbol, anchor, economic and political platform. The Muridiyya drives major national economies from groundnuts (one of Senegal’s principal export products) to transport and gas and plays a key role in banking, foreign investment and politics. However, very little of this activity takes place in Touba itself. The Mourride business network and trade web stretches across the country and reaches far beyond Senegal’s borders, with major diasporic centres in New York City, Sydney and Karachi, to name but a few.
About Aliou Mbaye
The thoughtful and richly textured work of Senegalese photographer Aliou Mbaye on aspects of daily urban experience in Dakar has drawn increasing attention in recent years. In March 2010, he undertook a one-month SPARCK residency in Touba. Rather than focusing on large-scale trading ventures or high-ranking businessmen, he trained his gaze on a relatively new and little-discussed phenomenon: women-driven trade centering on the production and distribution of groundnut oil. The result is an intimate photo series that documents the daily business of women engaged in emergent economic and social practices.