Islam and Islamic Arts in Africa

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

Coffee kiosk in Dakar, Senegal, with joined portrait of Seydina Issa Laye and Jesus Christ, 2009. Photo by Allen F. Roberts.

Senegal’s smallest Sufi movement is called the Layennes, after the Arabic term ilahiyyin—“People of God.” Layennes engage in small-scale fishing in and around Dakar. Their devotions are derived from the late-19th-century prophetic revelations of Seydina Muhammadu Limamu Laye who proclaimed himself Mahdi—the Savior of the End of Days. In Islamic lore, the Mahdi will be accompanied by the return of the Prophet Issa, known to Christians as Jesus Christ. Layennes understand that Seydina Laye’s son, Seydina Issa, was this very holy person incarnate. While most Senegalese are Muslims, a small but politically influential minority are Roman Catholics whose devotional imagery is readily available in Dakar. Here a portrait of Seydina Issa, derived from a studio portrait visible inside the coffee kiosk, is divided down the middle and joined to half the face of Jesus via Adolf Hyla’s depiction of the Sacred Heart based upon Saint Mary Faustina’s holy visions of the 1930s (Roberts 2013).