When the corona crisis hit the country, EUNIC Senegal quickly redirected planning and resources to launch the Lëlu Di Wajal'Art initiative – a special call for proposals addressed to local artists affected by the pandemic.
The culture scene in Dakar is rich and diverse. For years, EUNIC Senegal has been organizing activities and taking active part in events, such as the Dakar Biennale and film festivals, as well as capacity building initiatives for music and design sectors. This year, as soon as it became clear that the Dakar Biennale would not take place due to the coronavirus crisis, the cluster together with the EU Delegation in Senegal looked for alternatives. With physical activities and events postponed until further notice, the best option was to show solidarity with the local cultural sector by redirecting resources to support artists based in Senegal directly.
Let's retreat to celebrate art again in the near future
Lëlu Di Wajal’Art, the title of the call for proposals, evokes its spirit and local dimension. In Wolof, the language native to 85% of the population in Senegal, “lëlu” means to take a retreat, while “wajal” refers to preparations of a celebration in the near future. Therefore, “Lëlu Di Wajal’Art” is a creative retreat to celebrate art again in the near future.
The call is addressed to individual artists as well as groups of artists resident and working in Senegal to encourage them to search for new, innovative methods and artistic expressions in the restrictive context of social distancing, prohibition of gatherings and overabundance of cultural offerings on the internet. It is open to different cultural disciplines (music, dance, theatre, literature, photography, cinema, comics, visual arts, performance) and also encourages cross-sectoral collaboration. With a grant of 5,000 euros on average per project, the call is supporting around ten project proposals that test and develop new approaches and new marketing models for the creation, distribution and promotion of context, taking advantage of digital technologies and taking into account new audience models.
Nearly 200 proposals received
Despite a short timeframe of the call, nearly 200 proposals have been received. The selection committee, composed of EUNIC cluster members, had a challenging task to select proposals that on one hand offer good quality content while on the other hand provide innovative responses. Binta Johanna Ndiaye, programme coordinator at the Goethe-Institut in Dakar, describes the selection process: “We have received nearly 200 proposals and sadly we can only support around 10. With the selected proposals we hope to create a permanent artistic repertoire that will be available digitally and physically at a later stage.”
The selected projects are to be implemented between June and December 2020. With this call a broad community of artists has been reached and the cluster hopes to create a catalogue that will showcase the diversity of the projects. The Lëlu Di Wajal’Art initiative is not the only call that has been put out to support the local cultural scenes. Initiatives of other cultural actors have been launched as a response to the corona pandemic as Yann Gall, the director of the Délégation générale Wallonie-Bruxelles in Dakar and president of EUNIC Senegal explains: “In this current context it is essential that we find synergies and coordinate closely with other European and local partners. This is to make sure that all initiatives launched in the region, such as by Institut français, Africalia, Africa Culture Fund and the one by EUNIC Senegal support the broadest number of artists possible.”