Senegal, colonization, art, architecture, French, colony


Fifteenth to nineteenth-century French Colonial Senegal was a period of unprecedented cultural contact and convergence in Western Africa. With these interactions came new social hierarchies and the emergence of the signare identity. Signares were wealthy mixed-race and African Women who became involved with French men. This paper examines nineteenth-century art by Frenchman David Boilat and Stanislas Darondeau, and the eighteenth-century house of signare Anne Pepin. It critiques the racism and sexism depicted within Boilat and Darondeau’s work as well as its misinterpretations by contemporary scholars Mark Hinchman and George E. Brooks. Signares were knowledgeable entrepreneurs rather than manipulative and seductive women, which I argue with the support of contemporary scholars Marylee Crofts and Hilary Jones’ work. As I complicate existing research and develop an alternative narrative, I urge readers to question the diverse narratives about these African and mixed-race women in French Colonial Senegal.