Nafissatou Dia Diouf's Critical Look at a "Senegal in the Midst of Transformation"

By Enz, Molly Krueger | African Studies Quarterly, March 2014 | Go to article overview

Nafissatou Dia Diouf's Critical Look at a "Senegal in the Midst of Transformation"


Enz, Molly Krueger, African Studies Quarterly


Senegalese author Nafissatou Dia Diouf has garnered acclaim both in Senegal and internationally since she began publishing in the 1990s. She won several noteworthy awards early in her literary career including the following: Prix du Jeune Ecrivain Francophone (France; 1999), Prix Francomania sponsored by Radio-Canada (Canada; 1999), and Prix de la Fondation Leopold Sedar Senghor (Senegal; 2000). Diouf was featured by the journal Notre Librairie as an emerging writer of African literature in 2005. The same year, she represented Senegal at the Francophone Games in Niamey, Niger and won the jury prize in the literary category. Despite Diouf's lengthy publication record and international recognition, critical studies on her are very limited with the exception of a handful of articles in various Senegalese newspapers and magazines. (1)

Nafissatou Dia Diouf was born in Senegal's capital city of Dakar in 1973 where she attended primary and secondary school. She then went on to complete university studies in Bordeaux, France at Michel de Montaigne University. Here, she obtained a bachelor's degree in applied foreign languages as well as a degree in industrial systems management. (2) She also earned a master's degree in telecommunications management from the Ecole Superieure Multinationals des Telecommunications in Dakar. Although she did not pursue formal literary studies during her career in higher education, she was always passionate about reading, manipulating words, and writing. (3) In an article for the online newspaper Dakarvoice.com the author explains her origins as a writer: "In my first essay written when I was 12 years old, I described the scene of a birth with so much precision that my mother couldn't believe it." (4) Just over a decade later, Diouf's short stories were first published in the Senegalese women's magazine Amina, and she has since written and published a wide variety of texts including short stories, poetry, children's literature, and essays. (5) In her work, she examines diverse topics as they relate to her country such as education, marriage, polygamy, maternity/paternity, the influence of the West, the role of business, and the power of the media. Diouf provides her reader with a comprehensive view of contemporary Senegalese society and depicts how Senegal is affected by and reacts to the changes it faces. In a recent interview, Diouf stated: "For me, the first role of a citizen, even more when one has the power of influence such as in the case of writers, is to take a critical look (a constructive critique, of course) at one's own country." (6) Combining an interview with the author and textual analysis of her work, I explore in this article how Nafissatou Dia Diouf critically examines contemporary Senegalese society and portrays a country in the midst of transformation. (7)

A New African Image and Identity

In a 2007 interview with Amina, Diouf posits that the youth in her country must be able to speak about their society in a critical manner, including "the ills that preoccupy them, situations that touch them or make them laugh." (8) These everyday situations are what she explores in her writing and argues that African literature must be reenergized. In my recent interview with Diouf, she describes the potential impact authors can have in forging a new African image and identity.

Molly Krueger Enz (MKE): What is the role of writers in creating a new and positive image of Africa?

Nafissatou Dia Diouf (NDD): Writers are observers by definition, those that sense the weakest of signals who have perhaps this particular sensibility that allows them to perceive social and political happenings well before the public at large. Or else, they place themselves at a sufficient distance to analyze the facts removed from their immediate dimension and their social urgency. Writers are those that witness their time and era in a more critical and analytical way than journalists, for example. …

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