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PRINT Summer 1991

SAINT MOR FAYE

YOU PRONOUNCE HIS NAME like this: Mor as in more, Faye rhymes with die. In French, which most all Senegalese people speak, Mor Faye sounds like mort faille, which might mean “death fault.” Faille also means Flemish grosgrain silk and the headdress worn by the women of Flanders, so mort faille could mean “death headdress.”

Mor Faye is an African art saint. He died in poverty in 1985 at the age of 37, cause of death malaria. The place of his death was a mental hospital in Dakar, Senegal. He had been confined there for two years, ever since he was arrested for denouncing then president Léopold Sédar Senghor, also a Nobel Prize–winning poet, in front of the presidential palace.

Senghor had an ambitious art program for his country. He saw it as an art movement called “Negritude,” but Negritude, which he intended would define what black art should be, was as much the art wing of a political movement

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