I recently returned from a very productive and interesting month of research in Senegal (from July 8 to August 4, 2009). In collaboration with several Association members, I conducted research in Medina Baay, Tayba Ñaseen, Mbittéyeen Waalo, Dakar, Mbuur, and Ngic Jolof. I had hoped to go to Mauritania but, apparently due to the political situation there, I was unable to get a visa, although I was able to meet with Al-Ḥājj wuld Mishri during his short visit to Dakar. I hope to post some of the results of my research soon. For the moment, many of the photos I took are available at my Flickr site.
This was my first visit to Senegal since the passing of Shaykh Hasan Cisse, the Imam of Medina Baay until his death August of 2008. It seems that the whole community is still in shock over this sudden and monumental loss. The Imam was at the height of many projects and had just returned from a whirlwind tour of Africa and beyond, and many people reported seeing him circulating through Medina Baay visiting people during his last two days.
My primary research topic this time was the question of women muqaddams (representatives of the Sufi order), and I was able to interview several of them, both some I had met before and several I had never met. Association member Alioune Sekk was incredibly helpful in introducing me to resourceful women who lead very active communities of disciples, often in addition to significant family and professional responsibilities. Since I left Senegal, Sheex Baay Caam and Abdulaay Ñaŋ have continued the research on Sufi women.
During my research I worked with several Association members, including Sheex Baay Caam, Abdulaay (Baay Laay) Ñaŋ, Alliyun Sekk, and Allaaji Abdulaay Bittéy. Their collaboration allowed me to interview dozens of people, all of whom provided important pieces of the puzzles I'm trying to solve. All of these Association members have identified sites they would like to visit and people they would like to interview while I am in Cairo. I hope we will all have some interesting things to report soon.
I had an incredibly warm reception wherever I went and I'm very grateful to all the leaders, teachers, and other disciples who welcomed me and shared their stories and thoughts with me.