Hip-Hop, Urban Cultures, and Democracy

Roundtable discussion with Docta and Simon, two urban artists from Senegal

Griffiths Room 123
November 13, 7:00 p.m.

Docta and Simon are two well-known artists whose work has been nourished by political and social activism to keep democracy alive in Senegal. These two urban griots (African storytellers) advocate for freedom and democracy by vesting their aesthetics in some of the cultural traditions of their country.

man with outstretched hand



Docta (or “doctor” in urban Wolof) is one of the precursors of African graffiti and urban art in West Africa. With graffiti that combines wild style, bubble, 3D, vibrant colors, and sometimes African masks, he raises awareness about socio-political issues faced by Senegalese people and what he calls the “voiceless” or the “oppressed.” He painted murals in some of Dakar’s poorest neighborhoods with messages in Wolof, such as “health has no price.” In 1994, he founded with other friends, Doxandem Squad, an international association of graffiti artists to promote graffiti art and urban culture in Senegal as well as internationally. Together they created FESTIGRAFF, one of the most well-known graffiti festivals in Africa today. FESTIGRAFF has been gathering hundreds of graffiti artists from around the world, through the creation of new art murals, graffiti works, street parades, training of young artists, conferences, roundtables, and community concerts.

More about Docta:
doxandem_squad on Instagram
“Graffiti Coming of Age in Senegal,” VOA



Simon is one of the most influential Senegalese hip-hop artists who co-founded the grassroots movement Y’en a marre (“Enough is enough”). Y’en a marre was created to mobilize young people to vote by using what its members called “Urban Guerrilla Poetry,” revolutionary rap music performed in public spaces to create a New Type of Senegalese (NTS), a citizen who claims his/her rights and is aware of his/her civic responsibilities. The movement gained international recognition in 2012 when it helped prevent the former president Abdoulaye Wade to run for a third mandate.

Since 2000, rap and hip-hop artists in Senegal have been using their words and music to convey essential meanings and foster socio-political change at both the collective and the individual levels of the society. Simon confirms his role as “truth teller,” arguing that “the basis of the rapper is to inform people, to tell what happened, to sensitize [the] people.” [nowthenmagazine.com] He keeps defending civic responsibility and freedom of expression throughout his songs.

More about Simon and Y’en marre:
Y’en marre and the Rap Revolution in Senegal,” afrofunkforum.blogspot.com

man looking to his right

This event is sponsored by the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery; Music; Art & Art History’s Jeanne Scribner Cashin Fund; World Languages, Culture, and Media; Anthropology; Area Studies; English; African Studies; Government; Global Studies; and Digital Media and Film. For more information, contact Eloise Brezault, Associate Professor, Co-Chair of the World Languages, Cultures and Media Department, and Coordinator of African Studies at St. Lawrence University; phone 315-229-5155 or email at ebrezault@stlawu.edu.