I hadn’t been in Senegal long before I started to notice the Bambas. Everywhere I would go—into private homes, as street graffiti, on the backs of buses—I’d see paintings, stencils and photographs of a black man dressed in a white robe with a scarf covering his head and mouth. The man is Cheikh Amadou Bamba, a poet and Koranic scholar, a spiritual leader and an anti-colonial intellectual. There is only one known photo of Bamba and artists constantly reproduce that image. Bamba also founded the Mouride Brotherhood in the 1880s. The Senegalese practice a form of Sufi Islam and most are members of Muslim organizations called brotherhoods. The Mourides are a particularly active and influential brotherhood, which accounts for the prominence of Bamba depictions everywhere you look. As one Mouride follower and Bamba devotee told me, “Bamba, he brings you good luck.”
Here’s a slideshow of the many faces of Bamba, set the the sounds of locals chanting.
To learn more about Bamba and street art depictions of him, check out the gorgeous A Saint in the City: Sufi Arts of Urban Senegal.