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Mystical Graffiti and the Refabulation of Dakar
Abstract

Since late 2003 or early 2004, Pape Diop has been adorning the walls of inner-city Dakar with graffiti depicting Cheikh Amadou Bamba (1853–1927), the Senegalese holy man whose writings and life lessons are central to the Sufi movement known as the Mouride Way. What differentiates Diop's works from those of Dakar's other street artists is the layering of his portraits: he paints image upon image. In doing so, he produces astonishing effects, among them a three-dimensionality known as auto-stereopsis, which seems to reach out to viewers, or to receive them into mesmerizing intricacies. Bamba's portrait is based upon the only known photograph of the man, taken in 1913; yet Mourides consider the portrait to be an active presence, which conveys God's blessings (baraka). Diop's mystical graffiti refabulates or transforms the streets, making them protective and promotional of well-being, while the images' pronounced repetition recalls zikr (dhikr), half-chanted , half-sung "recollections" of God, which provide the cadenced pulse of Mouride life. Fruitful cross-cultural comparison can be drawn to devotions addressed to Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine icons.