Africa Dances: A Book about West African Negroes

Africa Dances: A Book about West African Negroes

Africa Dances: A Book about West African Negroes

Africa Dances: A Book about West African Negroes

Excerpt

Until the beginning of this century Dakar was a large negro village, with few European buildings--missions and churches, a few traders, small government offices. The land belonged almost entirely to the natives, who were chiefly engaged in fishing and commerce. The island of Gorée which stands off Dakar had been in the hands of Europeans for centuries, first the Portuguese and later the French. Saint Louis had been colonised since the end of the seventeenth century, and many of its buildings date from the eighteenth century, two-storied stone houses with large verandahs; the town is built on a narrow strip of land and has a homogeneous and rather charming architectural appearance which is completely lacking in all other French colonial towns. When the agreements were reached with the various kinglets of Senegal--for the colony was never conquered--Saint Louis became the administrative capital, which indeed for the colony of Senegal it still remains. But after the imperialist division of Africa in the second half of the nineteenth century France found herself mistress of the whole of the North Western portion of the continent, from the Mediterranean to below the equator, save for some relatively small portions on the coast, which were owned by the other imperialist powers. This enormous chunk of land was divided administratively into five groups: Morocco, Tunis, Algeria, French West Africa (A.O.F.) and French Equatorial Africa (A.E.F.). In 1904 Dakar was made the administrative capital of A.O.F.

The reason for this choice was probably the excellent natural port, which has indeed been since so developed that all ships can come alongside the quay, the only port in A.O.F. where this is possible; the enormous possibilities of the lagoon at Abidjan have not been exploited. Another probable reason for the choice was the mildness of the climate, which is somewhat similar to that of Marseilles. From the geographical aspect it would have been hard to choose a more unsuitable spot. Dakar is situated at the end of a cape some twenty miles long; communications with the interior are difficult--a train runs to Bamako once a week and the road is execrable--and neither climatically nor culturally is Dakar comparable to the mainland. The greater part of the government workers never leave the . . .

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