Publicado em 10 de abril de 2005
Traduções disponíveis em: français (original) . Español .

The Charter of Human Responsibilities: from written to oral expression

por Sidiki Abdoul DAFF

Temas largos ligados: Comunicação . Cross-cultural .

In order to popularise the Charter in Senegal, we opted for a comprehensive approach using diversified formats (text, audio tape). It was translated into the national language, Wolof (first national language in Senegal) with Latin lettering. In Senegal this language can also be written with Arabic lettering. Yet this is still not enough for the Charter to be shared as 70% of Senegalese people are illiterate in French and Wolof. This rate of illiteracy is extremely high in rural areas.

It was for this reason that we made a recording of the Wolof text onto tape. This form takes the strong prevalence of oral expression in African cultures into account (it is the most common form of expression in Senegal). First of all, we had to adapt the text without changing the meaning so that it would fit a musical format. So one of the translators, who is both a poet and singer, reworked the text to make it more expressive musically; to give it the inspiration and beat needed to make the words dance and give them a certain colour.

Although Senegalese people all speak Wolof, they don’t all come from this culture. So it was important that the musical form was as inclusive as possible so that people from different cultures could listen to it. In order to do this, we chose instruments and a musical form that, put together, reflected world music: the Manding Kora (south and east Senegal) mingled with the bass guitar giving a Serere rhythm (centre and west Senegal), the Peul flute (north Senegal) and the western keyboard adding an international flavour to it. The Charter of Human Responsibilities has a universal calling: we are thus committed to an approach based on openness and local appropriation. The poet-singer offered his voice to this musical fabric, his intonations giving the Charter of Human Responsibilities text a lively and captivating spirit.

The choice of musical atmosphere also had to be thought carefully over as we wanted something that people wouldn’t dance to but rather listen to. We chose “Khawaré”, a form of music used during evenings where legends, proverbs and historical stories are sung through the sweet voice of a griot in a capella (vocal music without instruments) or African guitar (“khalam”). Often after working in the countryside, peasants will come to these gatherings and sit with their elbows on the ground, their heads resting on their palms, and listen tirelessly to these long messages with sessions lasting as long as 2 hours. It is because the rural community has preserved this strong culture of listening that we focussed primarily on them in the popularisation of the tape. The tape’s 22 minutes (10 minutes for the history and context of the Alliance and 12 minutes for the Charter) was never a problem for the peasants. However, in an urban context, the tape’s length was more of an issue as community or private FM radio stations cannot broadcast it in its entirety due to commercial requirements, and moreover, city-dwellers don’t have a lot of time for listening. We would have to use a different form of music like rap or other kinds to tune them in.

Our choice to disseminate the Charter in this way is rooted in our desire to create real debates in peasant communities with people who, like everyone, can draw meaning from it. To a certain extent, direct access to meaning enables reducing delegation of thought, breaking the monopoly which produces meaning as being “owned” by intellectuals of colonial or post-colonial schools of thought, and move on other places where meaning can be produced. All the work on the tape was based around providing peasants with access to the Charter while enabling them to remain within their own cultural atmosphere. This explains the big success the tape has had on rural community radio stations, some of which made it their jingle or held debates on the tape (radio stations FM Niani, FM Louga, FM Fissel, etc.). We have our own networks for reaching this peasant target, as well as the help of the Federation of Peasant NGOs in Senegal (FONGS), the National Association for Literacy and Adult Education (ANAFA), the Council of Non-Governmental Organisations in Support of Development in Senegal (CONGAD) and the Senegal Scout Movement, which has bases in rural communities.

But it should be said that we have prioritised the dissemination in order to make the Charter known. In the immediate future we are planning on organising more in-depth discussions sessions so as to access the view points of these actors on the issue of responsibility in the rural world.

In Africa we need to be inventive and take original approaches (audio tape, video, multimedia, etc.) sometimes to circulate information and knowledge if we want to develop democracy in our continent and find popular alternatives. We are not opposed to the written form - all Senegalese people should learn to read and write (literacy and education for everyone) (the Charter exists also in the national language Wolof as well in French and English) - but in the current situation our spectrum of action is too limited. By exclusively using the written form, we would be, unconsciously or not, excluding the majority of the population and being fundamentally undemocratic in our approach. This is the challenge we wanted to take up.

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