Thierno Seydou Sall
Fellow Since 1993
This profile was prepared when Thierno Seydou Sall was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1993.
The New Idea
Thierno Seydou Sall is re-inventing the field of social communications for rural Africa. With two musicians and sheaves of his own and others' provocative poetry, Thierno is affirming aspects of traditional culture while challenging other aspects, and raising consciousness about basic rights and values among rural villagers and urban dwellers in Senegal. By presenting issues for discussion that have traditionally been viewed as taboo, Thierno is bringing a "new kind of participatory democracy" to people and challenging them to take charge of their lives. He is working with them to develop the local capacity to reflect and act upon the changes compelled modern by forces in ways that retain what is positive in rural village life while embracing modern notions, such as legal equality, that can help "the village" to survive into the 21st century.The impact of Thierno's village and town square sessions is extraordinary. In simple, but thought-provoking language, Thierno speaks for those who are usually neglected in social-political life, especially women, and children. His poems positively communicate the message that it is time to allow all members of society to participate fully in creating a new social order based on respect, humanity, and friendship rather than on social status, gender, and wealth. He shows how this change can hold the village together through the larger historical forces re-shaping Africa. Somehow, he provokes and affirms in a way that inspires reflection, discussion and new kinds of village action. Everyone from the oldest to the youngest laugh and cry and exclaim together through his sessions.As a secondary market for his methods, Thierno has also begun to work with agencies seeking to promote "rural development"–both NGOs and governmental departments. With these groups, he is fashioning ways that they might collaborate by building in a social communications component to their rural development projects.