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Théâtre Cinéma/TV Littérature / édition

Maurice Sonar Senghor

Metteur/se en scène, Ecrivain/ne, Acteur/trice, Directeur/trice de festival


Maurice Sonar Senghor était ancien élève du Centre Artistique International Dramatique et du Cours d’Art Dramatique du Vieux Colombier à Paris.
Sa carrière a débuté en France vers la fin des années 40, et se poursuivra au Sénégal.
Premier Directeur de théâtre en Afrique subsaharienne, il sera appelé à différentes reprises au Cabinet du Ministre chargé des Affaires culturelles en qualité de conseiller.
En 1964, il fut nommé Directeur du Théâtre National du Sénégal. Il y restera 20 ans. Sa carrière fut jalonnée de nombreuses distinctions tant en Afrique que sur le plan international.
Il joue le rôle du juge dans Libre, long métrage Jean-Pierre SAUNÉ (2002).
Il est décédé en juillet 2007.

Maurice Senghor recitant le poème du Président Senghor, « Femme noire » :

et « Porte-dorée » :


Maurice Sonar Senghor, the creator of the famous National Ballet of Senegal, began his career as a nightclub entertainer in France in the forties. His act was called Sonar Senghor and Les Siccos. Under the sponsorship of Josephine Baker, Maurice and his Company toured countries of Europe, namely Germany, Belgium, Luxemburg and Switzerland, In his early career, the stage served as a platform from which he would speak out against colonialism in Senegal. He endured tremendous physical and emotional pain in order to bring dignity to his people and his efforts are easily recognized in the success and freedom that the Senegalese people continue to enjoy today. Maurice Senghor was one of the pillars supporting the infrastructure of Africa’s post-colonial cultural awakening movement.

Mr. Senghor returned to Senegal after eight years in France as an accomplished entertainer. His first presentation of African theater in Dakar made a resounding impression on the High Commissioner of French West
Africa, who recognized and praised the multi-talents of Mr. Senghor. The High Commissioner of French West Africa advised Mr. Senghor to forget Paris and make African theater his goal noting that Maurice had much to offer Africa and the arts.

Mr. Senghor was appointed director of the Theater du Palais where he created the National Ballet of Senegal, and managed Les Ballet Africains during the absence of Keita Fodeba. When the Theatre du Palais was torn down, he moved to the newly constructed Theatre National Daniel Sorano
where he was appointed director. Under the creative genius of Maurice Senghor, Theatre National Daniel Sorano would flourish to house a number of companies; including the National Ballet, the second ballet, the lyric and instrumental ensemble, and the dramatic group. Mr. Senghor had many herculean tasks to bring the arts to the outside world. It was his burden to prepare Senegal for the first world Black and African Art Festival in 1966, at a time when the President of a neighboring country wanted to derail the process by holding a similar festival at the same time. Armed with a letter from President Senghor, Maurice Senghor went to Guinea and resolved the problem and Senegal hosted the first festival of Black Arts.

Mr. Senghor was an accomplished actor with starring roles in plays such as Black Macbeth, but these plays were performed in French, which excluded the non-French audiences. Outside French speaking Africa, his signature outstanding achievement was the National Ballet of Senegal. Mr. Senghor raised African dance to the level of international acclaim and respectability, which was heralded by the first performance of the National Ballet of Senegal at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in October 1971. The American audiences would now utter the same words the High Commissioner of French West Africa said years before. « We have never seen anything like the performance of this Ballet. » The work was stupendous, enthralling, and mesmerizing. There are not enough adjectives in the English language to describe the captivating reaction of the audience to the performance of his Company.

Following his devious ousting from the Theatre, abandoned by most, Maurice suffered bitterly and returned to Paris to live along in 1996 where he remained until July 12, 2007 when the heavens opened up and the Voice said « Be estranged no longer, Maurice, come home to me, I will give you peace, the PEACE that so eluded you on earth. » His body rests in the family plot in Bel Air Cemetery in Dakar.

Doris Green

Published in Traditions Volume 6 #3 Maurice Sonar Senghor Memorial issue.

See these videos :

Maurice Senghor reciting the poetry of President Senghor, « Femme noire » :

and « Porte-dorée » :
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