The one who is also nicknamed “the queen of Kabrousse”, born in 1920 in this small village in the south of the country, and died in 1944 in Timbuktu, in present-day Mali, embodies the anti-colonial struggle in Senegal and has become the heroine most famous of Casamance, a territory sandwiched between Gambia to the north and Guinea-Bissau to the south.
The boat that shuttles between Dakar and Casamance bears her name, as does the university residence for girls in the Senegalese capital, schools and stadiums.
In 2020, French playwright Karine Silla wrote a fictional book about the character. On the cover, the photo of a young woman posing proudly, arms crossed, bare breasts, pipe in mouth. In her village or in the universities, no one can say if it is about her.
In Kabrousse, it’s the end of the rainy season. The sun’s rays break through threatening clouds. A light breeze makes the leaves of the trees dance. A few dogs are barking. Children bicker and scream. In a few hours, the inhabitants – of animist belief – will meet to pray in the village square and exercise “the fetish” that Aline Sitoé Diatta taught them, that of bringing down the rain, essential for growing rice.
Here, everyone knows the story of the young woman, deported by the French at the age of 24 to distant Timbuktu, more than 2,300 km away, because she was suspected of fomenting a rebellion against the colonial power. However, Matar Sambaïsseu Diatta, the village chief, assures him: “She never opposed the colonial intrusion. At the time, many people came to consult her and the colonists believed that she represented a danger. Her story was later rewritten”.
This version is also shared by the anthropologist Jean Diédhiou, teacher-researcher at the University of Ziguinchor, who evokes “a memory contradiction” and “a rewriting of history for political ends”. For him, “Aline Sitoé Diatta was a priestess like there were others in Casamance”. Gold, “each village in the region is independent and has its own cults”and she never incited to rise up against the former colonial power.
On the other hand, it called for the spirituality of the ancestors and incited civil disobedience to oppose the requisitions of rice, a compulsory tax at the time. “Her status, she holds it from her arrest and her exile, and from the place that the colonists gave her. This is what I call the paradox of post-colonization. We are taking back what the colonists gave us inherited”believes Mr. Diédhiou.
The figure of Aline Sitoé Diatta entered the collective memory in the 1970s and 1980s through radio broadcasts presented by Father Augustin Diamacoune Senghor, a priest and separatist leader from Casamance, before being popularized by left-wing movements. in search of figures of the fight against colonization.
“For politicized young people in the 70s and 80s, Aline Sitoé Diatta was one of the essential references. We fought to rehabilitate our national heroes and we created a prize that bore her name to reward those who worked for the emancipation of women” , remembers Fatoumata Sow, journalist and founding member of the Yewwu Yewwi movement for the liberation of women. “She embodied the values of resistance, gender equality and the social advancement of women”she continues.
His belonging to the Diola people, an ethnic group from Casamance, served to cement national unity, while a secessionist armed rebellion claimed independence for the region from the 1980s, recalls Alioune Tine, a figure in civil society. in Senegal. He recalls the importance for the Senegalese “to have heroes in the different regions, with communities that can identify with them, and heroines, for women”.
In Cap Skirring, a tourist town near Kabrousse, Kani Ba, a 40-year-old Frenchwoman whose family is originally from Senegal, sits at a table in her camp. “I returned to my land because Aline Sitoé Diatta came from here. I wanted to see where she had lived, to feel her energy”she says. “In France, we highlight women, but rarely black women. It is necessary and vital to have Afro-descendant heroines who help us move forward. Life is simpler when we assume our identity”she explains.
In the footsteps of Aline Sitoé Diatta, mysterious anti-colonial heroine