September 26th is a poignant day in Senegal, as it marks the anniversary of the devastating sinking of the Joola ferry in 2002. Tragically, almost 2,000 people lost their lives in the disaster, many of whom hailed from Ziguinchor, the capital of Casamance. In honor of the victims, a memorial museum is currently being constructed in the city, and the Minister of Culture recently visited the site to provide grants to associations of families and survivors who are organizing memorials. During his visit, he also examined the progress of the museum’s construction.
By the banks of the Casamance River, the building, still covered in scaffolding, resembles a ship with porthole windows. Workers bustle about, carrying pipes. The museum’s administrator, Sokhna Gaye, guides the Minister of Culture and a delegation of officials through the empty floors. The structure is designed to be both a memorial and an educational museum.
“You have the maritime history of navigation in Casamance, you have the Joola shipwreck in three parts: boarding, life on board, and disembarkation. The last element is the lessons, the didactics of the discourse,” explains Sokhna Gaye.
The project was launched eight years ago, and construction began in December 2019 by Eiffage Senegal. Minister of Culture Aliou Sow is confident, stating, “We’ve engaged the foremost experts in museography in Senegal, along with foreign expertise from countries that have already established museums related to historical events. Propellers and other relics from the ship are also being mobilized in coordination with the navy.”
Sokhna Gaye is aware of the challenges that must be overcome to reach the public: “If people do not come to the museum, take the museum to the people. This will be a policy that we need to develop through museum outreach.”
For the loved ones of the victims, this museum will serve as a means to combat forgetting. Elie Diatta is responsible for legal affairs at the National Association of Families of Joola Victims and Survivors. He lost his elder brother in the shipwreck. He particularly hopes that the museum can also house the remains of the victims.