Xoolal! Simb Ñëwna!
August 8, 2011
The sound of sabar drums on a late summer afternoon do not always indicate a sabar bëccëg – an afternoon sabar party. If in following the sound of the drums you encounter large numbers of children cautiously looking towards the source of the sound, approaching a tarp that blocks a section of the street with hesitation you have found a Simb, or Faux Lion event.(1) The Simb is another event organized for children and young people although the whole community may attend.
With a Simb, a section of the street will be cordoned off with tarps, for this is a paid event. It is within the space formed by blocking off the street that the Simb will take place. Like a sabar party, there will be a circle created with the drums at one end. In this circle the Simbs will dance to the bakks played by the drummers. It is also where those who are captured by the Simbs will be brought.
Although the Simb is fierce and is often seen as an ominous figure by the young people, they are drawn to the event. The children you have seen on your way to the event, for whatever reason, have not purchased a ticket to the event and thus are the potential victims of the lions. If they are caught by a Simb they will be brought into the center of the circle to be punished by being forced to dance or do exercises before the Simb rubs sand into their heads and escorts them out of the event.
Those who have tickets are able to take part in the event and enjoy the playful nature of the Simb. They will have a space to sit or stand around the circle where they are able to watch the dances performed and are encouraged by the “lions” to show their appreciation. At specific moments they will sing songs about the Simb that are part of the event, and on occasion they are even invited into the circle to dance to the drums.
In addition to its cultural and folkloric significance, the Simb is a summer activity that provides a positive outlet for the young people in communities throughout Senegal. The following pictures show children taking part in a Simb.
1. For an explanation of the Simb see the Géwël Tradition blog entry of January 26, 2011 – Simb of Senegal, by Mohamad Faye.