Islam and Islamic Arts in Africa

by Allen F. Roberts
University of California, Los Angeles (formerly University of Iowa)

Imageric reception room of a Tijani elder, Dakar, Senegal, 2009. Photo by Allen F. Roberts.

While members of the Mouride Way may be most apt to proliferate and deploy sacred images meant to protect and promote people in their presence, members of Senegal’s other Sufi movements share a common visual culture in this regard. Here we see the wall of the reception room of an elder devotee of the Tijaniyyah, a Sufi path founded around the Algerian saint Sidi Ahmad al-Tijani in the early 19th century CE that is now found throughout northwestern and Sahelian Africa, from Senegal to Chad. The room is shady and inviting on a hot afternoon, and men gather there to drink tea and tell stories in the presence of their saints who are said to listen, see, and engage the lives with baraka (blessings) of any who enter their presence (Roberts 2014). The portraits of the gentleman’s daughters are hung over the door, embraced by those of revered Senegalese Sufis, and a grandson’s sound equipment sits in a corner, ready for his next hip-hop concert.