Colette Senghor, wife of Senegal's poet-president, dies in France

Senghor sprung to international renown for his poetry and theories about Negritude - the black African experience.

    Former president and founder of Senegal, Leopold Sedar Senghor, and his wife Colette Hubert [File: Joel Saget/AFP]
    Former president and founder of Senegal, Leopold Sedar Senghor, and his wife Colette Hubert [File: Joel Saget/AFP]

    Colette Senghor, the wife of Leopold Sedar Senghor, a poet and philosopher who became the first president of post-colonial Senegal, has died in France at age 93.

    She died in Verson, in the western region of Normandy, at their family home, the local council said on Tuesday, expressing its "huge sadness" at her passing.

    Senegalese President Macky Sall, in a tweet, paid tribute to Senghor, a "discreet woman and the wife in the background of the late President Leopold S Senghor".

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    Born in eastern France, Colette Senghor married Senghor in 1957, an era when mixed-race couples were extremely rare or taboo.

    At that time, he was a socialist legislator in colonial-era Senegal who had sprung to international renown for his poetry and ground-breaking theories about "Negritude" - the black African experience.

    In 1960, when Senegal gained independence from France, he became its first president and even drafted the national anthem.

    He was a French-educated Roman Catholic at the head of the predominantly Muslim nation and an intellectual in a country that was extremely poor and rural, yet he was hugely popular.

    He was re-elected as president in 1963 and stayed at the helm until 1980, when he became the first African to leave the post voluntarily.

    He retired to France, eventually dying in 2001 at age 95.

    Colette Senghor was as well known for her elegance and discretion.

    "[She] always looked over her husband and supported him in his political life and was the source of his inspiration in his artistic life," the Verson town council said in its statement.

    It said it learned of her death on Monday.

    Her husband paid tribute to her in an anthology of poems called Lettres d'Hivernage (Hibernation Letters), describing her as his "muse" and "gentle companion" whom he loved at first sight.

    SOURCE: AFP news agency