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Explore | Senegal’s Goree Island Street Art

 

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No matter how attractive of an idea it is to make a living from one’s creativity it requires a great deal of courage.

From one country to another the value of artistic work varies: art can be a hobby, a profession, a source of wealth, or simply considered craziness. Nonetheless it is safe to say that the value of such work strictly depends on its place in a given society.

In the case of Gorée Island’s artists, they find themselves in a rather particular situation.

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Africa is well known as an inexhaustible source of art. Therefore when someone living in Africa decides to live from his art, it may seem a little “absurd” because everyone there is considered an artist at heart! Therefore it is reasonable to differentiate between talent and good taste.

When I came across many young painters and artists on Gorée Island, I did not expect to meet so many gifted individuals able to express themselves through their creations as well as explaining their inspirations so well. Most of these young individuals graduated from the School of Fine Arts in Dakar gaining or fine-tuning their skill through their education. In this way they were able to expand their ingenuity instead of self-instruction through basking in African artistic prowess.

The artists presented their work to me with polite eagerness and introduced me to “African Pop Art” and “Synthetic Cubism”. They also took the time to explain their artistic approach and inspirations referencing major art works such as Picasso’s. They are well informed about the artistic world. They work on their art with intelligence, foresight and a strong environmental awareness (recycling, material salvaging …).

My guide told me that when one of the artists went to Japan he was so home sick that he had decided, despite his success ( for he was much appreciated for his “magic touch” there), –to return to the land of his ancestors.

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The island owes its beauty partially to the artists who in turn are inspired by this unique place. But why go or stay in Gorée to showcase their work? At least on the island their art is seen, recognized, appreciated and even celebrated – especially by the tourists. In Senegal, like in many African countries, it is almost impossible to make a living or a name for one’s self from painting despite all the expertise and knowledge. Modern art appears to be too abstract in a developing society.

I strongly believe that if the artworks from Gorée Island were presented in an art gallery in France or in Canada, they would gain inestimable worth. I ended up buying a magnificent canvas for only 15000F CFA which is equivalent to 22.87 euros. This was the original price attributed by the artist himself which I did not try to bargain. It is really a pity that their art is so undervalued economically.

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A creative genius is rare and precious when used properly, Art allows human beings to dream, to survive, to see and create their own version of the “impossible”. I was very touched by the artists’ stories and sincerely hope that one day their work will be exhibited and valued.

I hope you will keep this in mind if one day you have the chance to stroll through the streets of Gorée.

Melissa Zibi

@U_thesky

Fashion Blogger, Underneaththesky

Senegal and Geneva