Songs From My Stomach

Gus Ruchman - Senegal


March 25, 2011

At the Senegal Fellows’ most recent monthly meet-up in Dakar we had an entertaining art competition in which we each tried to represent, through a medium of our choosing and 30 minutes of preparation, our feelings towards Senegalese cuisine. Johannes, a brilliant Fellow stationed in the Millennium Village Project in Leona, won for his unique representation of his diet by drawing a hilarious and frighteningly accurate pie-chart directly onto his stomach. It was worthy of a full page spread in The Economist.[slidepress gallery=’songs-from-my-stomach’] Please scroll over images for titles and captions.

The following was my submission, a new form of fusion-poetry, “Wolof haiku,” which combines the deep beauty of the common local language with the syllabic and aesthetic simplicity of the ancient Japanese tradition. I have tried my best to translate that which does not translate (though I have lost the structure and rhythm along the way), and an unfortunate portion of the meaning is lost in the English version. Nonetheless, here it is in all its non-glory:

Senegal, Nu Lekk!

Lii móo gën a neex.
Kaayleen, nu añ, man ak yeen.
Ceebu djen bu weex.

Fóonde rekk, walla
Mew itam. Suba: ginaar,
Bu sóobee Yàlla.

Lëpp saf na, móo dëgg.
Amerik neex na, wante
Senegal laa bëgg.

Senegal, Let’s Eat!

This is the most delicious.
Come all, let’s lunch, me and you together.
White rice and fish.

Just porridge, or
Milk as well. Tomorrow: chicken,
If it pleases God.

It is all tasty, it is true.
America is good, but
Senegal is what I love.

My best goes out to you at home, or wherever your own adventures may be taking you. I miss you all, and look forward to catching up over some quality barbeque later this spring.

Gus Ruchman