Monday, April 08, 2013

Portland's Senegalese Community celebrates 53 years of independence

This last weekend, the Senegalese Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington held their annual celebration of Senegal's status as an independent nation. The festivities occurred at the Senior Center in Portland's Hollywood District on Saturday night.

Senegalese ladies in their finery
Planning and preparation for the event began months ago. The pace of activity started at methodical and worked its way up to frenetic in the final days before the party. As is always the case with these events, the Senegalese women (plus Anna and Lisa, the American spouses of Senegalese men) spent the several days prior to the event cooking like madwomen. My wife, Maty, had light cook duty this year, due to her recent surgery, but she still whipped up a big batch of African rice and ginger juice.

(Ginger juice is a very spicy concoction of ginger, mint, pineapple, and other ingredients. The first time I tried it, I made the mistake of taking a huge gulp. I lost my respiratory abilities for several seconds. Did I mention ginger juice is very spicy?)

Sabe Kan provided high-energy entertainment prior to the banquet, laying down infectious rhythms and performing captivating mbalax dances.

Here's a little sample of their high-energy performance.

The food at the banquet was, as usual, fantastic. In particular, the mafé (African peanut sauce), was outstanding. My friend Dave Hauth, who's become a fan of West African food, commented on how lucky I am to have a Senegalese wife who cooks me up these dishes regularly.

Crowded dance floor
Attendance was good. In addition to the Senegalese folks, the local Gambian community was well-represented and I encountered people from Burkina Faso, Congo, and Guinea as well.

And there were lots of North Americans. Many of the Senegalese people have American spouses, of course. But in addition, they invited coworkers and associates. One of the objectives of the association is, as President Adama Goujaby put it, "to import Senegalese culture," and this party serves that objective well.

One aspect of this party that I find enjoyable is listening to the music of the various languages spoken at the event. You'll hear English, of course, and French. But also, you're likely to hear Wolof, Mòoré, and other African languages. My Wolof vocabulary consists of less than a dozen words, but I've developed enough of an ear for it that I can at least distinguish it from other African languages.

Na nga def (articulated as "NON gah dev") translates to "How do you do?" That, friends, is the extent of my command of Wolof phraseology.

Maty and I with Maman Goujaby, plain tuckered out
Everyone seemed to have a great time, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how much we all missed Elimaan and Mbarou Mbeng and their family. The Mbeng's moved to Kansas City to pursue a work opportunity. They were an important part of the Senegalese community here in Portland and we miss them.

I've been affiliated with this community every since I had the extreme good fortune of finding my wife. It is good for the heart to be part of a community that is thriving, that is maintaining its identity even as it integrates and adapts to the life and customs of the Pacific Northwest.

Party on, Senegalese folks!


MLaFayette said...

I love when you share your activities with the Senegalese community, Dade. I'm such a Vanilla and never get exposed to that type of thing until Country Fair. You seem so much happier in your married state, and Maty is indeed, quite the woman. Many smiles to you and your lovely bride.

Zoya 2 said...

I will be in Senegal for the first time in May 2020. I would like to meet with anyone willing to tell me more about places I should visit; or who would like me to carry messages and small packages. I do speak French [though my computer does not].