The Senegalese writer and contributing editor for Chimurenga, Mamadou Diallo, recently scored a collaboration with Binyavanga Wainaina. His memoir-cum-biography, What a Friend Told Me, is co-written with Binyavanga and tells “the story of Alpha, a queer Senegalese man from a family of traditional woodworkers, who has long been designing spaces, clothes and furniture for friends.”
The book, which is presently in French and Wolof, is soon to undergo translation into English and Diallo will need funding for it, which would help to “cover travel…as well as research materials and supplies.” On Africa’sout, Diallo states:
We are telling the true story of a free spirit, who lives an adventurous life, manages to retain his singularity in a society that is particularly uncomfortable and hostile to such a thing. I say “we” because I think Alpha is not just the subject of this book, but an author whose storytelling skills and choices of narration will have a great impact on the text. It also is about the universal figure of the artist not fitting in society as it is but whose work and life creates new possibilities in the world. By telling Alpha’s story, the book will also shed light on parts of Senegalese life and society that are constrained to normative practices and mechanisms of silencing, cornered into invisible spaces, forced into self-denial and invisibility. The complexities of queer identity as it is being shaped on a global stage and its meeting with local traditions will also be explored.
Born in 1985 in Dakar, Senegal, Mamadou Diallo grew up in Côte d’Ivoire and studied history at Grenoble University, France. The founder of the online cultural and literary magazine RECIDIVE and former fellow of the Raw Academy, he won the 2015 Ake Prize for Prose and is a contributing editor for Chimurenga. In Dakar, he writes extensively on the local art scene specializing in young and emerging creatives.
Here is a description of What a Friend Told Me:
A few years ago, disappointed by the world of Saly and the people closest to him, Alpha left everything, wandered along the coast. Then in the Senegalese interior, Alpha traveled to the village, Galé Djadji, and finally his city of crossroads, Tambacounda. There Alpha experienced a tolerant society and felt reinvigorated by the surrounding nature. It is there, far from the city’s turmoil that he drew on spiritual resources to cope with the world and the artistic impulse for his latest drawings, sculptures and designs.
Using the pseudonym Alpha, the book chronicles his journey, giving insights into his life prior to his spiritual experience in Tambacounda: his childhood in the particular Laobél milieu he comes from; his father’s house in the town of Mbour, 80 km from Dakar, the capital city where most public and private investment in Senegal is made; and his coming of age in the cosmopolitan environment of Saly.
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