Sénégambians who were enslaved and exported in large numbers to Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta, have made a major contribution that culture and society. The culture of Greater Louisiana carries into the present day the imprint of Sénégambians, in the name Bouki and the stories of Bouki, the hyena and lapin, the rabbit or hare, in the Blues, a music which originated with riiti and xalam, which gave birth to zydeco, jazz and rock 'n roll, and in its cuisine (Sénégambians introduced rice cultivation to Louisiana)with dishes based on cous cous or rice such as the okra-based gumbo and the fish and rice mélange, jambalaya.
Sénégambian architectural styles are found in New Orleans and on Louisiana plantations like Laura and Melrose. Cajun and Ccreole speech contain some Sénégambian vocabulary words. The Mardi Gras "Indians", actually masked individuals of African descent, have many features of masked west African societies such as Komo, kumpo and kankurang. The drum and fife bands of rural Mississippi have Sahelian origins and the fanal parade of Saint-Louis recalls a New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration. Break-dancing and rural Mississippi dance movements are possibly derived from those of Fulbe acrobats. Indigenous Sénégambian religious practices may also have been exported with enslaved Africans to Greater Louisiana.
The conference is to run concurrently with the Bouki Blues Festival which is the first of a series fo events which flow from the work of historians, anthropologists, linguists and ethnomusicologists, among others, who have established the depth of the connection between Sénégambia and Louisiana. The two multi-cultural societies of Saint-Louis, Sénégambia, were shaped by one historical experience and these events will show the African basis of the culture of Louisiana.
As the first permanent French settlement in Africa, Saint-Louis, the departure point for modern Senegalese society, served as a base for the development of French Colonies in America, Louisiana in particular. Seat of the Concession of Sénégal and general warehouse for the provisions and merchandise of the trade, Saint-Louis rapidly became a human crucible for Blacks, Whites and Métis. Taking control of Louisiana in 1699, the Compagnie d'Occident gave special attention to the development of the colony, using Sénégal as a base from which came, according to the directors of the Compagnie, the only slaves useful in Louisiana. The work of Gwendolyn Midlo Hall demonstrates that during the French regime in Louisiana (1699-1763), nearly seventy percent of Africans imported into Louisiana came from Sénégambia. During the Spanish period (1763-1803) and after the purchase of Louisiana by the United States, Sénégambia continued to furnish a good part of the labor to the area.
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