The immortalisation of Amadou Bamba in street art

Atlas Obscura covered the eternalised life of Amadou Bamba (above) and how his fight against imperialism inspired so many in life and death, predominately though a single photo:

The photo was meant as a kind of a mug shot, so authorities could keep tabs on him. The photographer, a bureaucrat of the French colonial government in West Africa, aimed his camera at the standing Senegalese man, who was being kept under house arrest. The year was 1913 (or maybe 1914). Yet the camera did not capture a man trapped so much as a compelling, mythical radiance—the figure is poised, his headscarf glowing in blinding Sahelian sunlight, his face obscured but indelible. More than a century later the image has become unmistakable.

It’s the only known photograph of Sheikh Amadou Bamba (1854–1927), a spiritual leader of Senegal’s independence movement. Rendered variously in ink, paint, and charcoal, his image, based on that photograph, adorns homes and public spaces everywhere in the modern nation, from musician and politician Youssou N’Dour’s Dakar neighborhood of Médina to roadside villages in the interior. In murals, Bamba shares space with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., and his iconic outline festoons all forms of transport, from trucks and taxis to ships. All of these variations go back to that single, overexposed photo, and to the Mouride legacy that it unintentionally heralded.

More on Amadou Bamba: Amadu Bamba and the Murids of Senegal on JSTOR, In Search of Ahmadou Bamba PT.1: The Soul of Islam (video documentary), and The Sacred Coffee of Amadou Bamba

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