Guest: Ken F.
As a Senegalese living abroad, one way that I keep in touch with the country, and its happenings is through the various local shows that have sprouted up on TV in recent years.
These shows are popular with the Senegalese populace, and the Senegalese Living Abroad (SLA) especially, because they are set within our own socio-cultural contexts and realities. The actors speak the local language (although some of them do so with a heavy dose of French, and sometimes English for showoff purposes – Jojo with his “r’s” comes to mind). The shows are set in Senegal, in places which are familiar or at least recognizable to the average Senegalese (although here too, they tend to frequent lots of fancy places, which aren’t necessarily privy to the average Senegalese). They try to depict many socio-cultural aspects of Senegalese society, usually relationships between families and lovers. It is so great that we now have access to locally-made TV shows, which cater to our own realities, rather than the usual, but now less ubiquitous, Bollywood sappy love stories (anyone remember Vaidehi? Her trip to Senegal is #4 on the all-time Greatest National Shames list) or the 5-year long South-American soap operas (also remember when everyone used to say “capiche” after that one show I can’t even remember?). Plus, if you’re like me, the shows keep me entertained during my lunch hours when I don’t feel like socializing with anyone… All in all, the shows are the products of a great and commendable effort of local production companies, acting associations and actors to come together and make something original that is actually produced in Senegal.
All that being said, I have some major issues with the shows.
One of those issues is the professionalism aspect. I think there is a big amount of effort which needs to be made, to better the script writing, the scenarios, and also the skills of many actors. I think many shows have a lockdown on the visual aspects with the introduction of HD production (thanks Gelongal!), but everything related to the actual story and how its acted out, needs a bit more work… but this is for another day. For now,
I want to focus more on the content, especially how relationships are played out in the shows, using Wiri-Wiri as my example.
Wiri-Wiri has become a popular show, amassing thousands of views on YouTube. This popularity is very understandable as it mainly deals with the topic of marriage and the extended family’s outsized role in it in Senegalese culture. Needless to say, countless Senegalese women recognize themselves as a wife whose mother-in-law is the witch from Ndoumbelaan (in fact, said witch often lives with them).
That is why I think it is so important that shows like Wiri-Wiri, Buur Guewel, Un Cafe Avec should not just regurgitate social tropes in our society, but rather should all do a better job of portraying what good relationships should be, a mission I personally think they fail at.
Let’s take the example of Jojo and Soumboulou.
Scrolling down the comments after watching an episode of the show, I often see things like “Team Jojo”, “They are so great together”, “Jojo moo aam feeling rek”, but I am like “No, he’s a terrible husband”. Whenever Jojo gets angry, he mistreats his wife, calls her all sorts of name (including the T one), and reminds her of all the things he has ever done for her. He becomes emotionally abusive. He shuns her out completely, barely talking to her. Never mind the fact that he does not trust her one bit! What annoys me the most is how he has co-opted Soumboulou’s mother to always side with him, even when he is completely wrong (like when he accused Soumboulou of cheating with Cheikhouna)!
And talking about Soumboulou’s mother, that woman is the worst! No wonder both of her daughters are in very questionable relationships (Aby’s husband is always yelling at her, cheated on her with a white woman and rarely keeps her updated with his ongoings. Baye Fall has no respect for his wife, or her family. He constantly treats Aby as if she’s not her partner). At first Soumboulou’s mom was so mistreated by her husband that she could not even house her daughter when she was divorced and the latter had to sleep in the streets! What kind of an example is this? Then, she suddenly transforms into this woman who shows no respect to her husband when she discovers his secret, yet expects Soumboulou to be all nice and quiet with her husband? Soumboulou’s mom is the prime instance of being a terrible example yet holding your offsprings to a higher standard. Actions speak louder than words.
You also have the witch, aka borom lamou doff, who is pretty much a psycho. She abuses her husband (yes, men can be abused), works (ligueye) her son’s wife, and is a pathological liar. Yet, through all this, Cheikhouna is supposed to show her respect because she’s his mom? I simply can’t you.. She also forces a girl (who may be underage), Aida, to be married to her son for revenge.
This is against the law and against all of the efforts that have been undertaking to protect young women.
I sincerely hope that before the show ends, it will address all these issues and see to it that everyone gets real consequences for their actions that is for mistreating their spouses and/or their children.
I understand that these scenarios are undergirded by sayings such as “wadiour xeer laa, dome di neene”, etc, etc, and “dieukeur sang laa”. Well, it is time to debunk these sayings, as they only are half-truths!
Parents need to respect their children and husbands their wives. It is such a role, that of a disruptor, instead of safeguards of the status quo, that these shows should play. These shows should make the people watching it question the veracity of these sayings and the dynamics of these relationships; they should make us skeptics.
Skepticism makes you question everything, an important quality which is often not valued in Senegalese society.
Auteur: ANONYME Bonsoir NK, Ma femme et moi ...