Senegal Acquires Léopold Sédar Senghor's Book Collection from France

Senegal's government acquires 344 books from Léopold Sédar Senghor's collection, preventing their auction and dispersal in France. The books will be transferred to a museum in Dakar, preserving Senghor's cultural legacy in his home country.

Nitish Verma
New Update
Senegal Acquires Léopold Sédar Senghor's Book Collection from France

Senegal Acquires Léopold Sédar Senghor's Book Collection from France

The Senegalese government has acquired a collection of 344 books belonging to Léopold Sédar Senghor, the founder of the Négritude movement and first president of independent Senegal. The books, which were previously housed in Senghor's home in Normandy, France, include works personally inscribed to him by notable authors such as Martinican poet Aimé Césaire.

The collection was initially set to be auctioned off in France, risking the books being split up and dispersed. However, the Senegalese government intervened to purchase the complete set. Historian Céline Labrune-Badiane emphasized the importance of keeping the collection intact, stating, "We didn't want to see the collection split up, given it includes works that document the emergence of the Négritude movement."

Why this matters: This acquisition is a significant step in repatriating Africa's cultural heritage and preserving the legacy of a prominent figure in the fight against colonialism. It also highlights the importance of cultural institutions in Africa taking ownership of their own historical narratives and artifacts.

Senghor, who spent the last 20 years of his life in Normandy, was a central figure in the Négritude movement, a black consciousness and anti-colonial movement that emerged in 1930s Paris. He served as Senegal's first president from 1960 to 1980 and was also an accomplished poet and cultural theorist. Senghor died in France in 2001 at the age of 95.

The Senegalese government, led by newly elected President Bassirou Diomaye Faye, negotiated the purchase of the collection to preserve its cultural significance. The books, which were initially divided into nearly 200 separate lots for auction, will now be transferred to Dakar, Senegal. There, they will be incorporated into a museum dedicated to Senghor's life and legacy.

This is not the first time Senegal has intervened to acquire Senghor's belongings from France. In 2023, the government paid €240,000 to obtain 41 objects belonging to Senghor and his wife, which were also set to be auctioned. Labrune-Badiane noted, "From Senegal's perspective, it's tough to understand why Senghor left the entirety of his estate in France... But there's also the sense that this heritage belongs to Senegal."

The acquisition of Senghor's book collection is a significant step in repatriating the cultural heritage of one of Africa's most influential figures. By housing the books in a dedicated museum in Dakar, Senegal aims to ensure that Senghor's legacy remains accessible to scholars, students, and the general public in his home country. As El Hadji Magatte Seye, Senegalese ambassador to France, stated, "Even beyond these particular assets, we believe that Senghor himself constitutes an inheritance: Senegal's heritage, Africa's heritage, the world's heritage."

Key Takeaways

  • Senegal acquires 344 books from Léopold Sédar Senghor's library, preventing auction and dispersal.
  • Collection includes works inscribed by notable authors, documenting the Négritude movement.
  • Acquisition preserves Senghor's legacy and repatriates Africa's cultural heritage.
  • Books will be housed in a dedicated museum in Dakar, Senegal, ensuring accessibility.
  • Senegal's government prioritizes cultural ownership, preserving historical narratives and artifacts.