Women’s Bodies, Men’s Spirits: Identity, Agency, and Power in Contemporary Senegalese Narratives

Fall 2023 GGR Recipient

Nnenna Onyima (French)

Nnenna Onyima studies the representation of spirits and bodies in African narratives. Her work interrogates how African creatives depict the conviction held by most African nations in the existence of the spirit world and the physical world. Nnenna imagines Afrocentric pathways to reading different spirit-body relations. Relying on African traditional religions, she questions how we might pinpoint the boundaries between the spiritual and physical worlds and how spiritual presences in bodies nuance bodily identities. Her work displaces dominant worldviews and centres sub-Saharan Africa’s worldsense epistemes. Inspired by the primary texts she engages with, Nnenna plans to visit sites of spiritual presence in Senegal—Gorée Island, Tann Forest, and the shores of the Atlantic. Through these interactions, she hopes to attain what Ahmadou Hampaté Bâ, in his article “The Living Tradition”, calls “total knowledge”.