Cultural Heritage



UNESCO has listed two rituals of Senegal as Intangible Heritage of Humanity: the Kankourang in 2008 (listed in 2005) and the Khoy (or xoy) in 2013.

Kankourang  : Ritual celebrating circumcision among the Mandinkas, the Kankourang has been classified as an intangible heritage of Humanity by UNESCO since 2005. It is a character who wears a mask and is covered with fibers extracted from tree bark, loaded to protect the circumcised during their outings. Ritual generally practiced in September in the natural region of Casamance and in Mbour where there is a large Mandinka community.

The Khoy: Divining ceremony organized at the approach of the rainy season on the square of the villages by the community of Serers of the center-west of Senegal. During this long nocturnal vigil, the master seers, known as saltigues, follow one another in the circle reserved for them to deliver their predictions, to the rhythm of the drums.

A decree of May 19, 2020 from the Ministry of Culture and Communication inscribed 59 cultural elements on the representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of Senegal

These elements consist of social practices, initiation rites, festive events that punctuate the cycle of life, from birth to death, knowledge and know-how, according to the different regions and communities.

These include Bakk (traditional wrestling songs and dances) and “Tourou Mame Ndiaré” in Dakar, “Raw” from Kaloum well in Louga, Waru Guewel, Jaara in Linguère. In Saint-Louis it is the thiébou dieun’, in Fatick the ”Xoy”, and the Kañaleen  : fertility rite practiced by women to combat sterility and infant mortality, in Diourbel ”the Laabaane” .

Baobab Ndemba  : ceremony of sacrifices and propitiatory libations housed in the baobab Ndemba was chosen for Kaffrine.


In Kolda, it is the Dimba Tulung  : fertility rite practiced by and for women.


In Kédougou, Amak  : ritual associated with the sacred baobab of Iwol to pay homage to the ancestors and formulate prayers for the Bedik community.


Kampo Sampaté  : traditional artistic knowledge in wall painting and decoration held by women in the Soninké milieu (Tambacounda), Ekongkong  : in warfare generally practiced by young people during the harvest festival with inter-village wrestling sessions in Ziguinchor.


Other elements can be retained in the rich cultural heritage of Senegal.

The Signares:   Coming from the Portuguese word “Senhoras (women)”, this name designates a group of black and mixed-race women, with specific sociability, who lived in the colonial trading posts of Gorée and Saint-Louis in Senegal, mainly between the 18th and 19th century . Often married to the executives of European trading posts who had just arrived, the Signares enjoyed certain privileges and even had captives.

They often had a fortune from the trade of precious products and were distinguished by the organization of “Mbootaay (regroupings)”, simb sessions.

In her book “From the Signare to the Senegalese Diriyanké” (Harmattan 2014), historian and teacher Aissata Kane LO wonders about the extensions of the Signare culture to the contemporary phenomenon of the Diriyankés.

The Simb or “false lion” dance is a show generally organized during summer holidays or during wrestling sessions, led by men made up and disguised as lions. According to tradition, at the time when Senegal was still covered with forests, any hunter who survived the attack of a lion then behaved like the beast, following the shock. To treat it, the healers then proceeded to rituals of possession, which the organizers of simb (or simb gaindé) try to reproduce .

The sculpture

The most famous Senegalese sculptor remains undoubtedly Ousmane SOW, revealed in 1987 at the French Cultural Center in Dakar and famous for his bronze and human-sized works, which have been exhibited in twenty places around the world.

Until his death in December 2016, Ousmane SOW made a series of sculptures representing the Nouba wrestlers of South Sudan, in 1984, the Masai (1988), the Zulus (1991) and finally, the Fulani in 1993.



The tales of Senegal develop varied themes, with moral teaching as their main foundation. The stories told have as main actors, the animals of the savannah, in particular, “leuk the hare”, “bouki the hyena” and “Gaindé the lion”.