THE SHADOW OF THE PROPHET
A film by Christian Kobald and Philipp Mayrhofer
There’s no escaping Ahmadou Bamba’s image in Senegal: It can be found hanging from the rearview mirrors of taxis, in bakeries, at markets, in kitchens and bedrooms, and it’s also painted on the walls of half the country’s buildings. Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, also known as Serigne Touba, founded the Sufi order of the Mourides, one of Senegal’s most influential Islamic groups. And his portrait can be seen everywhere.
In Shadows of the Prophet Philipp Mayrhofer and Christian Kobald investigate the past and present of this picture. It’s from the only surviving photograph of Ahmadou Bamba, which was taken by French colonial police in February, 1913. The filmmakers speak with photographers who reproduce it in mass quantities, they visit the courtroom where Ahmadou Bamba was sentenced to exile in Gabon, and they also witness the annual procession in Senegal’s second-largest city, Touba, founded by Ahmadou Bamba and the location of his grave. Shadows of the Prophet is about the power of images in a culture where worshipping them is a wholly foreign idea.