Senghor, Léopold Sédar (1906–2001) By Benga, Ndiouga
Poet, politician, and cultural theorist, Léopold Sédar Senghor was the first president of Senegal from 1960 to 1980. His devotion to the arts as a critic, aesthete, and patron developed during the inter-war period in the formation of the concept of Négritude along with Aimé Césaire and Léon Damas. Senghor designed and built everything, according to the understanding of Négritude as African authenticity independent from Western art conventions, as a claim of black identity and the cornerstones of which are rootedness and openness, which inspire his aesthetic. He proposed an effort to prospective thinking, guided by the movement. The aim was to transmit to young generations the values of Négritude, through the introduction of modern technology. ‘The Priority of Development should not detract from the Primacy of Culture, as a contribution to the Civilization of the Universal which is an integral humanism, a horizon and a purpose, which nurtures and develops both body and soul’ he wrote. It was in the very essence of the policy of Senegal to defend the values of black civilisation and to be the spearhead of young African States in terms of education, culture, and training. Therefore Senghor spent more than 30 per cent of the national budget on these sectors in the 1960s.