Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Youssou N'Dour For President

Yes, the most famous mbalax star in Senegal is indeed running for president in the country's elections to be held in February 2012. While his music plays in literally every town and village in Senegal (and The Gambia as well for that matter), we will see if he is able to bring fans of his music to the polls.

In the following video message translated from French, N'Dour says his candidacy is a result of the men and women of Senegal calling for him to run. He asks potential voters to look beyond his lack of university education because he has, through travelling, "studied at the school of the world".

N'Dour will be running against current president Abdoulaye Wade who is 85 and seeking his third term in office. In 2011 Wade angered many in the nation by trying to change aspects of the nations constitution. After major protests, with hip hop musicians at the vanguard of those expressing discontent, Wade backed down.

With as much name recognition as he has, N'Dour will likely still have to prove that he's a qualified as a policy maker and is representative of the values the Senegalese people believe in. Senegal is a majority muslim country with some particularly conservative areas. With N'Dour's entertainment lifestyle he has garnered criticism from conservative religious leaders in the past. In response to the criticism, N'Dour produced the album Egypt which was his attempt to show that his music was in line with the teachings of Islam. The album went on to win a Grammy, but a Grammy and a Presidency are too entirely different prizes. Most likely the conservative religious leaders will be vocal about a Youssou N'Dour candidacy.

N'Dour says his run for the presidency will be to limit what he considers the dubious spending of the Wade regime, the most ostentatious edifice of which is the North Korean-built Monument of the African Renaissance. The giant statue, near the coast of Dakar, has been criticized for its pricetag, its design and its heavy use of energy.

I do wonder with as many connections and business interests as Youssou N'Dour has however, whether he'll be able to affect the political and economic change he has promised in the country. It will be interesting too to see how much being a celebrity translates into political support in Senegal, considering in the US, many voters cast their ballots based on political character created largely by media agencies.

For a real change-oriented Senegal it may be interesting to consider a guy with truly revolutionary vision that is without the perceived baggage of Senegal's elite establishment. That would be Thiat of the Keur Gui Crew, as seen in the video below.

Here's to a free, fair and safe election in Senegal next month.

The Best Photobooks of 2011: A Comprehensive List

Thanks to the site eyecurious we have the most comprehensive list of the year's best photobooks. This list of lists was compiled by scouring the web for every single Best Photobook list available (more than 50) and then listing the books that featured on the highest number of lists. According to Eye Curious, 2011's "Best Book" is...Redheaded Peckerwood by Chriastian Patterson, which was featured on a very impressive 19 lists.

Of course as an art, what is "best" in photography is entirely subjective. Yet the fact that more than 50 lists were written this year is emblematic of that fact that there is great interest in photographic publishing. As advancing digital technology coaxes more and more of our lives online it is comforting to know that the photography book is still a viable medium. The internet is on the one hand a major competitor to physical publishing and on the other a major tool for communication and design that makes the ability to share and appreciate art much much easier.

Oh and if you didn't get your fix from the first list, another photobook list that has traditionally been very well informed is that of Photoeye Magazine, who this year asked many photo critics and photographers to share their favorites of the year.