Sunday, 19 February 2017

Jelili Atiku | Let Me Clutch Thee

Artist: Jelili Atiku
Origins: Nigeria
Performance: Let Me Cluth Thee
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Date: Saturday 18th February 2017
Photos: Maye Albert

Here is the photo documentation of Jelili Atiku's performance, “Let Me Clutch Thee”, which was enacted with Tazme Pillay yesterday, Saturday February 18 2017 during the Institute for Creative Arts (ICA) Live Art Festival at Company’s Garden and Iziko South African National Gallery (S.A.N.G), Cape Town, South Africa.

The performance explored the persistence of oil spillage in the African continent, especially in the Niger Delta region, and its unprecedented impacts on ecosystem stability, biodiversity and food security. Organic and inorganic materials were employed to bring out the visual realities of the devastating effects of oil exploration and exploitation in the coastal region.

Photo by Maye Albert.

Friday, 13 January 2017

21 Sunsets over Agadir by Joe Pollitt

Sunset over Agadir | Joe Pollitt

Photo and Author: Joe Pollitt

Woke up early for the 9.50 flight to Agadir out of London, Gatwick and arrived just before 7am on a brisk and frosty, bitterly cold, finger nipping, abject winter’s morning. First things first, I made my way to the Weatherspoons Café for breakfast. Perhaps, the worst English breakfast in the whole of the kingdom. The price was twice that of the usual but with less than half the appeal. To say it was atrocious would be somewhat overselling the efforts and poor quality ingredients that had gone into the making of my departing meal. The bar were quick to take my money and minutes later arrived with a plate, full of regret. My tired, dismissive waitress frantically plonked it down on the table with a wily smile and left as quick as a thief in a jewellery shop. The beans had been micro-waved, which created an orangey film on the top that clung to the sides of the small rounded brown pot and looked like the saggy underarm skin of an over-tanned elderly sex tourist.  The bacon was cold, tough and dry, testing out my teeth with the chewing. The dirty looking sausage was full of nodules shaped as cubes of tainted lard. The fried egg was hard, the yoke had separated from the whites and now was placed miserably on the right hand side on the platter, fashioned like a portion of stiff yellow paint that had been neglected, left out on a tray for days. The meagre 2 and half wrinkled cheerless tiny mushrooms were the only redeeming features on the serving dish. Bashfully, I had asked for a cup of fresh coffee rather than be seen drinking at the early hours of the morning, like some jobless loser with nowhere to go but down. What a mistake to make, the coffee was instant, tepid on the tongue with that flavourless dishwater taste of sheer disappointment with every sip. I sat outside the kitchen, snarling at the blissfully unaware waitresses and the smug talent-less chefs as they walked by. Alone, perched on my purposefully awkward high stool I sat, stunned at the quality or lack there of, feeling less than filled up but rather plainly ripped off. Completely thwarted but far too English to complain, I returned to the bar with a frown; ordered my pint of Stella with a large whiskey chaser and nursed them until the gate opened and it was time to board the plane. The whole experience had put me in the perfect frame of mind for leaving the country in search for better times.

The passengers on the flight were all in a good spirits; the couple next to me were celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary and heading to the sun for golf and relaxation in their all-inclusive. Although now retired, they had both worked together as coach driver and administrator for their own small family firm in Somerset. They had skilfully secured lucrative contracts from the Council to pick up school kids and take them to various locations coupled with hiring their coaches out for various events and special occasions. It seems their lives had been well lived and they spoke fondly of their children and grandchildren, all of whom had done exceptionally well in one-way of another. It was great to hear them talk together, often speaking over each other, both eager to express just how proud of their family achievements they were. They spoke with such excitement and good energy, so positive about the future that they were hardly likely to see, but their confidence in their family meant everything. Secretly, I felt jealous, then bored solid and then came the shame inside but I think I managed to get away with it and held it together well after ordering 2 more cans of Stella off the trolley. Fifteen minutes later, when I had told them of my interest for Africa and their eyes glazed over after the fifth minute, they settled down to snore. Mouths open gasping for air they took their naps before landing. How they both managed to complete an 18-hole golf course, what with Sheila’s hip and Ron’s triple by-pass was beyond me. I, on the other hand, was far from over, as the plane landed I started to clap as loud as I could to celebrate my arrival in one piece. “Great Landing” I shouted whilst clapping and then twisted my head around aisle seat 5D only to be confronted with a now barrage of screwed up faces of hate and disbelief from the rather anger holidaymakers. “What? You’re not happy to be alive? Just me then”, I shouted back at them and woke my elders gently and waited impatiently to disembark…Nobody wanted to know me right from the start…thank God or Allah that I’d left my passport in the back of the seat tray so had a marvellous excuse to be last. And so began my wonderful adventure for 2017 – 21 Sunsets in Agadir.

Beach in Agadir | Joe Pollitt

My party had gone before me and I was left on my own in Agadir Airport. A no woman’s land let alone a nomans land but soon Hamid McMohammed came and unashamedly lifted up a clear sign under my nose with a note that stated: “English Loser – 21 Nights, Hotel Al Moggar” on reading those words in black and white I just knew he was my paid-for transport, my hotel connection to Hotel Al Moggar, so I agreed to go with him, alone in his 12-seater recently dented silver van. I foolishly told him, or maybe he cleverly elicited that I had bought duty free whiskey and when I said. “Yes Johnny Goodness Walker Double Label my lovely MacMuslim”, the next thing I heard where the wheels screeching and skidding, grinding the van to a full stop. There on the side of the motorway, semi parked in the middle of the road my semi-secure driver Hamid Mchammered drank my Double Black Label from the bottle like some greedy 2-month old baby. On that day, Johnny Walker made a Moroccan driver transform into a Professional Formual 1 sports personality of the year,  who made Michael Shoemaker look like a blind elderly driver with a fear of passing other drivers issues... The entire 12-seater took on a rally effect. Agadir the mental way, fast tourism, sight seeing at speed and the only true way to see the city and it’s outskirts in a 5 day trip of the Berber people…You know how the Muslims love to and as fast as possible. We ended up in the hotel an hour before booking, even though I was 3 hours late in the starting….Only in Morocco.  I arrived in the hotel confused, fired up and excited about the sunset and wanted so desperately to be booked in to ready myself for that long awaited spectacle....all I got when I looked out of the window was a red stream of after sunset “Agadusk” light and I wondered how do I explain this redness..this really new red, virginal red line in the sky….?  How to describe this youthful redness? This playful red that wanted to show itself for the very first time and be proud. Years in the making and others so red in comparison. It was about time for the red to show itself, no more spotting, this was a glorious red spread right across the skies. Better late than never but what an outstanding public display from a seriously late bloomer... How to describe this after sunset loveliness with this moving-into-womanhood red that can be so often seen in the “Agadusk”.

Back in the hotel I had a delightful conversation with some of the locals. "You you English, you LOVE to drink. Drinkin-Drinkin-Drinkin always you, you English. Youknow, we say in Islam you, you English you LOVE to drink, drinkin-drinkin always problems...You, you English problems, problems, problems you, you English." To which I gracefully replied,  "You fucking fucking fucking fuckers. I fucking love to drinkin, you fucking fucking cunt fucking drinking problems fucking problem problem cunt. Have a fucking drink you fucking fucking problem and let us talk shit till the early hours you fucking fucking fucking, problem problem problem cunt." This was the first proper conversation I had since landing in Agadir Airport.

Sunset near the Sofitel | Joe Pollitt

It is hilarious; wondering around the city furious with the world having spent too much time in toxic Europe. Swearing in flip flops is the best. Wearing my Christmas pyjama-bottoms with snowmen with red bobble hats and thinking nobody notices, I make myself at home. Waving at fellow tourists and telling them all that my blue terry toweling dressing gown was in fact a designer labelled smokers jacket. Looking all pasty, pale and unhealthy, smoking as much duty free as my lungs can handle. Right proper Englishman abroad. And the men here greet you with hugs and kisses. The experience is surreal or perhaps too real. It was like being 3 years old again, running around with stretched out arms and screaming, "fucking fucking be my friend, fucking fucking cunt cunt", to which my grunts were welcomed with huge grins and sparkling eyes with the phrase, "You, you English....Fucking fucking Manchester United fucking fucking..." and warm hugs and kisses from grown men on every street throughout the city. Why would I ever want to leave?

Monday, 5 December 2016


Ousmane Sow avec guerrier Massai

À bien des égards, c’est un profond changement dans l’Art. Ce qui explique Ousmane Sow est cette ancienne Yoruba et Mali méthodes de sculpture sont supérieures à celles de l’Europe car ils ont plus de flexibilité. Certaines de ses sculptures originales en plus tard sont impossibles à reproduire en bronze ou en or, comme le support est trop lourd et trop restrictive pour afficher ce qui est physiquement possible dans la sculpture. La primitive est parfois supérieure à ce qui est considéré par beaucoup d’être civilisé.
L’artiste africain controversée, le sculpteur Sénégalais Ousmane Sow, est décédé à l’âge de 81 ans. Ét travaillé sans interruption en tant qu’artiste ; comme un enfant qui grandit à Dakar, il a fait des figurines d’action qu’il partageait avec ses amis et utilisé pour composer des récits de fiction. Il a travaillé sur le modélisme et animations à Paris pour des décennies, même transformer son bureau de physiothérapie dans son studio. Il a produit un film court 16mm sur un groupe d’extraterrestres flamboyants visitant la planète terre, mais sa carrière a commencé seulement une fois qu’il était retourné en Afrique et s’installe dans son bien-aimé Dakar, à son début des années 50. Tout au long des années 1980 et 1990, truie produit un immense corpus de œuvres en utilisant les techniques et les matériaux africains. Son premier grand succès est venu avec ses sculptures de plus-que-vie des lutteurs soudanais nubien, au Centre culturel Français de Dakar en 1987.
Massai Series

Zulu Series
Viennent ensuite la Maasia, du Kenya et de Tanzanie explorer leurs capacités de chasse exceptionnelle et leur lien avec la nature sauvage du Serengeti, puis les guerriers zoulous du Kwzulu-Natal, Afrique du Sud et de leur force et l’unité parmi les tribus plus résistantes en Afrique. Enfin dans cette première série, il a exploré la beauté renversante trouvée dans des nomades Peuls islamique du Sahel et Afrique de l’Ouest, dont les caractéristiques sont apparentées à celles trouvées dans le moyen-orientaux avec leurs peaux brun doré. La série nubien était un exercice anthropologique de l’artiste et un large regard sur les différentes variétés de peuples qui se trouvent sur le Continent de l’Afrique.

Fulani Series
Réveillé par la cinéaste allemande Leni Riefenstahl et ses livres photographiques sur les Nuba et le peuple de Kau du Soudan. Une série d’images appelés Mein Afrika a été traduite en 1982 et renommé, Afrique en voie de disparition. Truie, il semblait assez pervers pour un cinéaste allemand, qui non seulement soutenu mais créée de propagande pour le NSDAP d’Adolf Hitler, devrait être l’artiste pour enregistrer la vie des africains. Avec ambition, il a assumé le rôle vital d’anthropologue africain et calmement et méthodiquement décidé relater la multiplicité de l’Afrique à l’aide de techniques sculpturales africaines anciennes et modernes et permettant enfin une perspective africaine sur les populations africaines. Pendant plusieurs années, il a créé une série de sculptures énormes exposer la diversité du Continent.

Nubian Wrestlers

Les lutteurs nus étaient tout à fait choquants lorsque présentée pour la première fois à l’extérieur du Centre culturel Français dans la ville musulmane de Dakar. Leur présence et majestueux won de la domination du grand artiste acclaim et par truie 1993 a été sélectionné pour la Documenta à Kassel (Allemagne) et la Biennale de Venise deux ans plus tard. Cosmique succès suivi et réaction du public aux œuvres de truie étaient plus comme les fans à un concert de rock ou de regarder leurs films préférés de leurs meilleurs réalisateurs amateurs de cinéma. Les œuvres semblent prendre vie de leurs propres et les réactions ont été profondément privées et affecté chaque personne différemment. En 1998, il a pris sur son plus grand défi, les américains et créé, ce que beaucoup considèrent ses chefs-d'œuvre, 35 œuvres dans ses Amérindiens série, quelques-uns il mis à cheval, certains avec des fusils d’autres avec des arcs et des flèches, tous les combats pour la victoire contre le général Custer à la bataille de Little Big Horn en 1876.

Mere et Enfant

Né en 1935, Sow a grandi dans le quartier animé de Reubeuss à Dakar. Il fut élevé par son père discipline, Moctar et sa mère robuste de Saint-Louis, Nafi N'Diaye. À l’âge de 7 ans, il fréquente un Lycée Français et docilement pratiqué l’Islam après l’école et Pendant les week-ends. Plus tard, alors qu’en France, il trouve du réconfort dans la méditation et l’hindouisme avec une profonde croyance en la réincarnation. Dans la maison qu’il a construit à Dakar, il a fait la meilleure chambre dans la maison, sa chambre de méditation.

Son intérêt pour la sculpture était évident dès son jeune âge. Dans son adolescence, il a exploré différentes formules avec des colles et matériaux fondus s’accumuler diverses figurines. En 1957, après la mort de son père, Sow a décidé de quitter Dakar, même s’il était sans le sou. Sénégal à l’époque était une colonie de la France et en tant que membre de l’un des semer de départements Français était un citoyen Français. Attitude de l’artiste envers la vie est rappelée par une conversation avec le journaliste Français, Marie-Odile Briot. Dans son enfance quand on lui demande si il pourrait attraper la lune il sauta du lit, mettre sur ses chaussons et il a donné son meilleur coup.

Une fois en France, semez trouvé un logement temporaire dans les divers commissariats autour de Paris et ramassé progressivement fugace des emplois afin d’obtenir. Ayant un intérêt dans le corps humain il a assisté à un cours de massage, qui lui a valu un diplôme en soins infirmiers de l’hôpital Laennec. Il a ensuite étudié avec Boris Dolto, un pionnier en orthopédie et en kinésiologie en France. Ses compétences professionnelles comme physiothérapeute fourni la stabilité financière mais aussi la compréhension essentielle et connaissance du corps humain, qui est devenu si précieux dans sa vie postérieure.

Battle of Little Big Horn

Cahier des charges était un maître d’exagération avec une compréhension fondamentale de l’anatomie humaine analytique. Il a pu se plonger dans sa familiarité avec les muscles reposants par opposition à ceux qui se contorsionner. À bien des égards, cet artiste était une énigme qui a trouvé extraordinaire succès mondial. Son ascension météorique sorti de nulle part mais Sow avait patiemment travaillé sur idées depuis première montrant son bas-relief intitulé, tête de maure au Festival mondial des Arts Nègres (FESMAN) en 1966. Ses œuvres sont authentiquement africains extraite de différentes techniques sculpturales de l’Afrique de l’ouest en particulier, chez les artisans de Nok d’Ife, Nigeria. Semer sculpté sans un modèle et fait rarement des croquis. Le secret de ses mensonges de succès dans l’alchimie de son médium à la main, un certain nombre d’ingrédients très prisés comme mère de la terre rouge, sable, du vinaigre et autres matières confidentielles ont été placés dans des barils, transformés en pâte et gauche pour infuser au fil du temps. L’ensemble du processus est une forme d’art en soi, qui a donné l’artiste autant de plaisir que la création de ses sculptures massives. Une fois que les modèles étaient habillés et farcies il a appliqué à la main, sa mystérieuse recette toxique sur une ossature de métal, de paille et de jute, permettant la nature pour faire sa magie et donner le milieu de sa propre liberté pour durcir sous le chaud soleil de Dakar. Cette approche est par nature artistique, mais aussi profondément enracinée en Afrique. Dans la première phase de son travail, la série nubiennes, les chiffres gargantuesques rencontrez comme plutôt sévères, les sculptures sont lisses, solide et tendue ; leurs postures et rigides... presque obstiné. Ce qui est si impressionnant, c’est que pour la première fois, nous voyons un artiste africain jouant anthropologue, non seulement fait il grossir celles du Continent mais donc avec les formes traditionnelles africaines antiques de sculpture qui date du XIème siècle.

Battle of Little Big Horn
Dans la deuxième phase de sa vie artistique, les techniques de la truie a changé légèrement et dans la bataille de Little Bighorn | L’américain effet au Whitney Museum en 2003 nous voir beaucoup plus rude, plus grossier et plus ambitieux œuvres exposées. Les chiffres sont audacieux dans leur couleur et truie gauche des trous dans les cadres et à l’aide de son nouveau brûlé technique, a été en mesure de faire des sculptures plus malléable et plus dramatique. La matière grise sur les chevaux vient de faire fondre les morceaux de plastiques colorées qui créent une finition remarquable. Le résultat final est une magnifique production de 11 chevaux et l’humain 24 figures incroyables positionne jamais avant vu. Ce cahier des charges a gagné la réputation comme l’un des plus grands sculpteurs de tous les temps.

Ousmane Sow | Le Pont Des Arts

Au printemps de 1999, à l’invitation de la Mairie de Paris, l’artiste expose un des événements plus spectaculaires de mémoire d’homme, sur le pont des Arts. Le spectacle a attiré plus 3 millions de visiteurs et les médias Français a même averti que l’afflux de tant de spectateurs porterait atteinte à l’intégrité du pont lui-même. L’exposition comprenait soixante-quinze des œuvres colossales de la truie, comprenant des membres de la série nubien, ses Amérindiens et diverses figures emblématiques. Ces œuvres grandioses ont été exposées entre le Louvre et l’Académie française. Il s’agissait d’un spectacle impressionnant de proportions épiques, qui a remporté l’artiste adoration et l’admiration du public Français.

Dancer with the short hair
Après son succès de l’exposition 1999, il a commencé à utiliser une fonderie de bronze d’exprimer certaines de ses œuvres antérieures. La plus belle qui est danseuse aux cheveux courts. Dans la région reculée de Kordofan, dans le sud du Soudan, où vivre les Nuba, jeunes vierges dansent la myertum, la « danse de l’amour ». Les jeunes danseurs enduisent leur corps noire ou rouge de la terre pour se rendre à apparaître plus athlétique et plus désirable. Ils exécutent une danse de séduction ludique spéciale pour les lutteurs victorieux, qui sont assis en cercle, les yeux baissés par respect, après le combat de cérémonie annuel. Le bronze est le support idéal pour ce chef de œuvre magnifique, par sa qualité sombre, chatoyante et raffiné de sa finition, il est en mesure de reproduire parfaitement la beauté naturelle de la danseuse aux cheveux courts.

Le 11 avril 2012 ét a été élu pour devenir un Membre Associé Etranger (« membre associé étranger ») de l’Académie des Beaux-Arts de l’Institut de France, remplaçant l’artiste américain, Andrew Wyeth. Il devient le premier artiste africain jamais à se faire élire à l’adhésion.

Toussaint L’Ouverture and the Old Slave
Dans la même année, sa sculpture « Toussaint Louverture et le vieux Slave » était la pièce maîtresse à la mosaïque africaine au Musée National d’Art africain à Washington. Ce travail a été acquise par le Musée et en vedette dans le bicentenaire de la révolution haïtienne, le œuvre célèbre Toussaint L'Ouverture qui a dirigé une révolte des esclaves en Haïti depuis le 21 août 1791 à 1er janvier 1804.

Ses derniers travaux, le paysan, une commission du Bureau du Président de la République du Sénégal. Le travail doit être en bronze et installé devant le Centre International de conférences Abdou Diouf à Diamniadio, près de Dakar. Ousmane Sow a terminé sa dernière œuvre, un mois à peine avant sa mort. Son héritage incroyable est assuré et son engagement pour toutes les choses de l’Afrique.

Ousmane Sow, né le 10 octobre 1935 au 1er décembre 2016, il laisse derrière lui une nouvelle génération de sculpteurs impressionnants du Sénégal, Seni Awa Camara, N'Dary Lo, Mamady Seydi, Cheikhou , Henry Sagna et Abdala Faye.

Author: Keilah Wells


Ousmane Sow with Massai Warrior

In many respects this is a sea-change in Art. What Ousmane Sow is explaining is that ancient Yoruba and Mali methods of sculpture are superior to those from Europe as they have more flexibility. Some of his later original sculptures are impossible to replicate in bronze or gold as the medium is too heavy and restrictive to display what is physically possible in sculpture. Sometimes the primitive is superior to what is considered by many to be civilized.

The controversial African artist, Senegalese sculptor, Ousmane Sow, has died at the age of 81. Sow worked continuously as an Artist; as a child growing up in Dakar he made action figures which he shared with his friends and used to make up elaborate fictional stories. He worked on model-making and animations in Paris for decades, even turning his physiotherapy office into his studio. He produced a short 16mm film about a group of flamboyant extraterrestrials visiting planet earth, but his career only started once he had returned to Africa and settled back into his beloved Dakar, in his early 50’s. Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s Sow produced an immense body of work using African materials and techniques. His first major success came with his larger-than-life sculptures of the Nubian Sudanese Wrestlers, at the French Cultural Centre in Dakar in 1987. 

Massai Series

Zulu Series
Next came the Maasia, from Kenya and Tanzania exploring their exceptional hunting ability and their connection with the wilderness of the Serengeti and then the Zulu warriors from Kwzulu-Natal, South Africa and their strength and unity as one of the most resilient tribes in Africa. Last in this initial series, he explored the stunning beauty found in nomadic, Islamic Fulani people from the Sahel and West Africa, whose features are akin with those found in the Middle Eastern with their golden brown skins. The Nubian Series was an anthropological exercise by the artist and a broad look at the different varieties of peoples to be found on the Continent of Africa.

Fulani Series
Stirred by the German filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl and her photographic books on the Nuba and the people of Kau from the Sudan. A series of images known as Mein Afrika was translated in 1982 into English and renamed, Vanishing Africa. To Sow, it seemed rather perverse for a German film-maker, that not only supported but created propaganda for Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party, should be the artist to record the lives of Africans. Ambitiously he took on the vital role as an African anthropologist and quietly, and methodically decided to chronicle the multiplicity of Africa using ancient and modern African sculptural techniques and finally permitting an African perspective on African people. Over several years he created a series of huge sculptures exposing the diversity of the Continent.

Nubian Wrestlers
The naked wrestlers were quite shocking when first shown outside the French Cultural Centre in the Muslim city of Dakar. Their presence and majestic dominance won the artist great acclaim and by 1993 Sow was selected for Documenta in Kassel, Germany, and the Venice Biennale two years later. Cosmic success followed and the public's response to Sow's works were more like fans at a rock concert or cinema-lovers watching their favourite movies from their best Directors. The works seemed to take on a life of their own and the reactions were deeply private and affected each person differently. In 1998 he took on his greatest challenge, the Americans and created, what many consider his Masterpieces, 35 works in his American Indians series, a few he placed on horseback, some with guns others with bows and arrows, all fighting for victory against General Custer at the battle of Little Big Horn in 1876.

Mother and Child
Born in 1935, Sow grew up in the vibrant neighbourhood of Reubeuss in Dakar. He was raised by his disciplinarian father, Moctar and his robust St. Louis mother, Nafi N’Diaye. At the age of 7 he attended a French Lycée and obediently practiced Islam after school and at the weekends. Later, whilst in France, he found solace in meditation and Hinduism with a profound belief in reincarnation. In the home that he built in Dakar he made the best room in the house his meditation room.

His interest in sculpture was evident from a young age. In his teens he explored different formulas with glues and melted materials to build up various figurines. In 1957, after the death of his Father, Sow decided to leave Dakar, even though he was penniless. Senegal at that time was a Colony of France and as a member of one of the French Departments Sow was a French Citizen. The artist’s attitude towards life is remembered by a conversation with the French journalist, Marie-Odile Briot. In his childhood when asked if he could catch the moon he jumped out of bed, put on his slippers and gave it his best shot.

Once in France, Sow found temporary accommodation in assorted police stations around Paris and gradually picked up fleeting jobs in order to get by. Having an interest in the human body he attended a course on massage, which earned him a diploma in nursing from Laennec Hospital. He then went on to study with Boris Dolto, a pioneer in orthopaedics and kinesiology therapy in France. His professional skills as a physiotherapist provided financial stability but also the essential understanding and working knowledge of the human body, which became so invaluable in his later life. 

Battle of Little Big Horn
Sow was a Master of exaggeration with a fundamental understanding of the human analytic anatomy. He was able to delve into his familiarity with restful muscles as opposed to those that contort. In many respects this artist was an enigma who found extraordinary global acclaim. His meteoric rise came out of nowhere but Sow had been patiently working on ideas since first showing his bas-relief entitled, Head of a Moor at the World Festival of Black Arts (FESMAN) in 1966. His works are authentically African taken from the different sculptural techniques from West Africa specifically, from the Nok artisans of Ife, Nigeria. Sow sculpted without a model and rarely made sketches. The secret to his success lies in the alchemy of his handmade medium, a number of highly prized ingredients such as red soil, sand, mother of vinegar and other confidential matter were placed into barrels, turned into pulp and left to brew over time. The whole process is an art form in itself, which gave the Artist as much pleasure as the creation of his massive sculptures. Once the models were dressed and stuffed he applied by hand, his mysterious toxic recipe onto a framework of metal, straw and jute, allowing nature to do her magic and giving the medium its own freedom to harden under the hot Dakar sun. This approach is inherently artistic, but also deeply rooted in Africa. In the first phase of his work, the Nubian Series, the gargantuan figures come across as rather harsh, the sculptures are smooth, solid and tense; their postures rigid and inflexible... almost obstinate. What is so impressive is that for the first time, we see an African Artist playing anthropologist, not only does he magnify those from the Continent but does so with ancient African traditional forms of sculpture that date back to the 11th Century.

Battle of Little Big Horn
In the second phase of his artistic life, Sow’s techniques changed slightly and in the Battle of Little Bighorn | The American Effect at the Whitney Museum in 2003 we see far rougher, coarser and more ambitious works on display. The figures are daring in their colour and Sow left holes in the frameworks and using his new burnt technique, was able to make the sculptures more malleable and dramatic. The grey matter on the horses comes from melting pieces of coloured plastics which create a remarkable finish. The end result is a magnificent production of 11 horses and 24 human figures in incredible positions never before seen. This gained Sow the reputation as one of the greatest sculptors of all time.

Ousmane Sow | Le Pont Des Arts
In the spring of 1999 at the invitation of Paris City Hall, the artist exhibited one of the most spectacular events in living memory, at le pont des Arts. The show attracted over three million visitors and the French media even warned that the influx of so many spectators would undermine the integrity of the bridge itself. The exhibition included seventy-five of Sow's colossal works featuring members of the Nubian Series, his American Indians and various iconic figures. These awe-inspiring works were on display between the Louvre and the Académie Francaise. This was an impressive show of epic proportions, which won the artist adoration and admiration from the French public.

Dancer with the short hair
After his successful 1999 exhibition, he began using a bronze foundry to cast some of his earlier works. The finest of which is Dancer with the Short Hair.  In the remote Kordofan region, in the south of Sudan, where the Nuba live, young virgins dance the myertum, the "dance of love". The young dancers smear their bodies with black or red earth to make themselves appear more athletic and desirable. They perform a special playful seductive dance for the victorious wrestlers, who sit in a circle, their eyes lowered out of respect, after the annual ceremonial combat.  Bronze is the perfect medium for this stunning Masterpiece, with its dark, shimmering quality and its refined finish, it is able to flawlessly replicate the natural beauty of the Dancer with Short Hair.

On 11th April 2012 Sow was elected to become a Membre Associé Etranger ("foreign associate member") of the Académie des Beaux-Arts of the Institut de France, replacing the American artist, Andrew Wyeth. He became the first African artist ever to be elected for membership.

Toussaint L’Ouverture and the Old Slave
In the same year his sculpture “Toussaint L’Ouverture and the Old Slave” was the centrepiece at African Mosaic at the National Museum of African Art in Washington. This work was acquired by the Museum and featured in the bicentennial of the Haitian Revolution, the work celebrates Toussaint L'Ouverture who led a slave revolt in Haiti  from 21 August 1791 to 1 January 1804. 

His final work, The Peasant, a commission from the office of the President of Senegal. The work is to be cast in bronze and installed in front of the Abdou Diouf International Conference Center in Diamniadio, near Dakar. Ousmane Sow completed his last work just one month before he died. His incredible legacy is assured and his commitment to all things Africa will certainly go down in the African Art History books of tomorrow.

Ousmane Sow born 10th October 1935 to 1st December 2016 | He leaves behind a new generation of impressive sculptors from Senegal: Seni Awa Camara, N’Dary Lo, Mamady Seydi, Cheikhou Bâ, Henry Sagna and Abdala Faye.

Author: Keilah Wells

Monday, 7 November 2016

Lagos Art Fair X

Nigerian | Akinwande Ayodeji Akinola

 It is quite an art to offend and impress at the same time. You have to find the rhythm in the words written and have a great sense of poetic timing along with plenty of old-fashioned love. African Art can do this so simply especially when it comes to how to commercialize Art. To make African Art as desirable as European Art. To Westernize a Continent, to create honey traps for Artlovers. Art Fairs, Auction Houses, Benefits and Private Views. This seems so upside down for most Africans but it is essential for the best of African Art be made visible to the wider world. What is usually so inclusive and necessary within most African Societies has been replaced by something more commercial, soulless and empty art. Art that is appealing in it's obvious availability for the Super rich and doable for those on a budget. The tables have turned and Westernized Africans are coming home with different appetites than previous generations. Many are seeking new creative identities. Talk of Cultural Independence is still something relatively few discuss but there are those that are finding creative ways to sell artworks and take control of what is regarded or considered culturally significant in order to stay one step ahead of the Western influences on Africa. Many are also wanting the exclusiveness of a London Gentlemen's Club, along with a what-is-mine-is-mine style attitudes and a selfishness that would make even the first explorers turn their heads in despair. We are here, stuck between a British Colonial black-lead style future or finding a comfortable solution to an authentic African Art experience that satisfies all parties. 
South African Cartoonist | Karl Schulschenk
So why Art? What is in it for the people? To create an elite group that can then exclude the majority. The Colonialists must be smiling in their seats of power. "They trained you well in London I see." The aim is to break the chains of cultural serfdom Highlight what Art can achieve and gather together various artists from Africa that can seek to find commonalities and build bridges not create divisions. And what of imagination, the way West Africa has for centuries been able to converse with spirits and gain a far greater understanding of their inner-selves via Voodou. Are they to reject all that they are and keep on nodding, whilst knowing that what they are giving up is their whole identity, their uniqueness? The Organizers are just asking those participating in this rush to Market, to be framed and essentially frame themselves in more ways than one. They are trying desperately to show the Continent about how important it is to package yourself up for Market. To be pigeon-holed like some Jack-in-a-box for a chance to make some paper money. What use is money when nobody sees any value in it's currency. If the artists are to sell their original works of art, how are the Museums able to exhibit their works, when they have all been sold to the lowest bidders? This irrational desire to sell Art in this way is like putting the cart before the horse.

Zimbabwean Photographer Kudzanai Chiurai - State of a Nation

We will always be misunderstood. Some even choose to misunderstand because to understand is to take the responsibilities of actions, investments made. Who wins out in the end, perhaps nobody. The truth-tellers must hold their ground and make what they say resonate with others. The words are of no importance but it is more about the intent. The purpose of using the words. The struggle to seek truth and to find the best solutions that makes the most sense. That is all we can ever finally achieve, if anything at all. What Power doesn't understand is the importance of feeling included in the conversation. To be active and having a voice however small or large, it is of such importance. That sense we were here when this happened and we hardly ignored it, we spoke at great length about it. We were included and that was the importance of our time. To start to change what has gone on for far too long. The systematical institutional racist educational upbringing that has set African minds thinking they are inferior or superior if they only excluded the majority. How very Un-African, a strange and vulgar mentality and an ugly way of understanding the world. There must be a better way.

Nigeria | Ade Adekola | Flags and Conflict

The work all looks the same, the subject matters are for Western eyes. That pathetic prerequisite, that vacant global middle-class feeling of self-satisfaction. That empty sense of a false consciousness in creating illusions and seemingly doing something worthwhile but so incredibly insincere about the outcome. In fact, so cynical most vote for both sides equally, taking no stance but more, taking no chance of the possibility of being wrong. Ensuring a safe outcome in a calculated Machiavellian style way. Those in the World of Art, well the better part of the Art World, are trying to discourage this type of buyer as it effects the works created and destroys the joy and pleasure in the making of the Art. The real excitement comes when the effectiveness has been achieved within the production process.  Generally speaking, World Art has become far more theatrical and almost plays into the hands of the Africans and as the middle classes within Nigeria rises this truth will have far more of a punch, or impact than it does right now. There has to be a turning point, a way forward that is on African terms, rather than those set up by the Europeans. The guidelines need to be put into place so that the best of Africa has an opportunity to be seen and celebrated. The pettiness of Academia with only make matters worse with their imperious, officious ways. The thrill of African Art is in it's rawness, in it’s natural state. In it's glorious "otherness", a superb alternative to what is otherwise being mass-produced and sold like tins of beans. The idea an Artist should not be able to live from the creation of Art is absurd, but that difficulty is the life of an Artist the world over.

The reason we remember the Civil Rights Movement in America of the 1960's and 70's is that feeling of wanting so badly to be in that Number. The strength came in the numbers, those so willing to put their necks on the gallows and be counted. That passion is born out when we observe the queues for the Smithsonian Museum of African American History. A waiting-list that stretches right up to Summertime 2017. To be included is a wonderful thing, to be allowed to take part is an unique experience for a Westerner. Lives in America and Europe have been exclusive, they have been State Affairs and are dealt with by trained monkeys from the military. All the responsibilities have been taken away by their so-called, "betters" who have taken up the reins. This reeks of Dictatorship but the West have been so blind to see it, too busy raising money for Wars and Starving Children and HIV/AIDS. Those in the West have unknowingly taken the lazy option but Africa must take note and must grow in confidence to have the basic instinct to know what is good and what is trying far too hard to please? These issues are raised every year yet nothing is done to improve. This reminds me of Cancer Research, it is not in their interest to find an overall cure but more importantly they need to expand, they need to exponentially grow, grow into the Cancer Industry. Now the focus is not so much on a Cure but on Cancer. Next, create the fear by stating half the population will have Cancer. Put out statistics like 1 in 2 will have Cancer in their lifetime  and then the focus is on the necessity and desperate need to increase the budget year after year. The same is happening to the African Art Industry. The constant wheels of power turning, finding ever increasing ways to extract cash from deep pockets and twisting the common donator into a lucrative Cash-cow. This is the merry-go-round of Modernism, the illusion of change is created but only to keep the cogs of power well oiled and turning. What is the necessity for change, there is no motivation to change a thing? We live in a world that relies on technicalities, ways in which we can embellish and exploit those that need us most.  This has created a very cynical and sick society in the West, it would be sad if that same unhappiness is transported to Africa. It is essential that we become aware of what we do today will reflect on Tomorrows World. Throughout all the countries of Africa, Governments need to start to wake up to the true potential and overall benefit for supporting the Arts. Only then can they take back control of their Cultural Identity. In conclusion, by creatively blending Traditional Africa with the Modern in a way that insults neither, African Nations can successfully achieve a genuine and authentic notion of Modern Africa that is in a constant state of creative positive change.


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