Bishop’s University contract faculty also widely contributes to incredible research in diverse areas of expertise. Dr. Dalla Malé Fofana of the Département d’études françaises et québécoises has varied research interests in discourse analysis, oral culture, language contact and phonology as well as education. At BU, he also teaches linguistics, grammar and French as a second and foreign language. Dr. Fofana recently published an open-access article titled Senegal, the African Slave Trade, and the Door of No Return: Giving Witness to Gorée Island in a special issue of the journal Humanities on contemporary discussions of ethos. His essay conjoins historical analysis with personal narrative, a style he describes as “scholarship of the personal”.
Opposite Dakar, off the coast of Senegal, lies Gorée Island, where, from the 15th to the 19th century, Africans were held captive while waiting to be shipped into slavery. In his paper, Dr. Fofana, born and raised in Senegal, explores the history of Gorée Island and its role in the African slave trade through his story of learning and understanding this dark part of history. He also shares with the reader how the image of a door, the Door of No Return, through which captives would leave the Island, losing everything, has haunted him all his life.
“Recently, the Senegalese people have learned to speak more openly of their history. But, as late as the 1980s—the years of my youth and early schooling—the wounds of colonialism were still fresh. I contend that slavery had been so powerful a blow to the Senegalese ethos that we—my family, friends, and schoolmates—did not speak about it. The collective trauma and shame of slavery was apparently so powerful that we sought to repress it, keeping it hidden from ourselves. We were surrounded by its evidence, but chose not to see it. Such was my childhood experience. As an adult, I understand that repression never heals wounds. The trauma remains as a haunting presence. But one can discover its “living presence,” should one choose to look.”
Dr. Fofana also discusses the importance of not only speaking openly, but also seeing better, in order to fully comprehend the world around us. As self-expression is healing for the individual and the collectivity, he advocates for more African visual media representation. Dr. Fofana personal and powerful essay serves as a reminder of the importance of understanding each other, of being a community, which is essential in these strenuous and challenging times.