Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Suzanne Ouedraogo from Burkina Faso

Suzanne Ouedraogo artist from Burkina Faso.

Here is one of my favourite artists. Suzanne Ouedraogo. Her work is quite shocking but this makes it all the more impressive.

Her series on Female Circumcision 2000-2003

Excision 2000

Excision I - 2003

Excision II - 2003

Here is a poem on the subject of female circumcision by a young female Nigerian Poet which goes well with these paintings.

Our Dilemma by Chinwe Azubuike

You, our gods of immortals and living
Of seas and lands
Of all visible and not
We beseech, hear our cry this day
And come to our rescue.

Our sacred weapons of pleasure
Are being destroyed by the day
Rendered useless
By our overseeing Lords and Ladies
Of ancestral descent.

They perform a barbaric operation on our ‘flesh of honour’
And call it ‘Female Circumcision’
In the white man’s language.
They mutilate our pride and say it is ‘tradition’
“The initiation to womanhood”

They cut us!
Oh yes, they cut us with the blade.

In the gaze of our fellows, they cut us!
At times in the secrecy of our mother’s haven.
They do not concede to the tools,
Nor words of the physician’s for our safety
To them it has been for ages
And tradition dare not be defiled.
They just cut us.

Against our will as they are wont to
For we foresee the agony and anguish
To these we try to parry but helpless we are

Our eyes have cried,
Tears of unending pain and torment
They have run dry of water.
Our hearts, laden with loathsomeness
We fear may burst.

They cut us, with or without our consent
Left to bleed by their ignorance
Sometimes fatal to our existence.
Other times, we become plagued with illness of strange names
“Infection” the physician would call it

Again they say it delivers us from the hands of promiscuity
As we ascend the ladder of womanhood.
Such blasphemy! We think
As if we are not bound for the act of consummation
In our ‘married’ days

As we watch our counterparts this day
Buried deep in this sin,
Sisters whom we term fortunate cut at childbirth
Fortunate to have escaped the pain we feel now,
We can’t but wonder
“Who is fooling who?”

You, our ancestral Lords and Ladies
Suffer us no more we beg
What profit do you aspire
When our lives are wont to expire
In this course of tradition?

Oh! What a shame,
That you who drum to our ears
To revere the dignity between our legs,
Become the ones that destroy it.

Poem by Chinwe Azubuike | Nigeria

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Tapestry and Website News

The Forum section on the Outspoken - www.outspoken.co.uk - for African writers and African Painters - www.africanpainters.com - websites has been hacked and attacked. It's a real shame but I don't have the technical expertise to work these problems out. Too bad for those wanting to have their say or voice heard out of Africa. Never mind....I'll just have to keep blogging I guess.

My thoughts today are on setting up weaving groups in Africa. First/Second/Third Generation Weavers from Egypt at the The Ramses Wissa Wassef Art School.

Egyptian Landscapes:
Fifty Years of Tapestry Weaving
at the Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre, Cairo

19th January - 17th March 2006

This exhibition presented a rare opportunity to see a dazzling collection of tapestries from one of the world's greatest schools of weaving, Egypt's ground-breaking Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre. The exhibition featured masterpieces from the Centre's permanent collection as well as stunning new pieces. Woven over the past half-century, they are the result of a unique educational philosophy that has profound significance for all forms of art and creativity.

The collection last visited Britain in 1985 when the tapestries were hailed for their beauty, humanity and significance. Remarkably, these vivid depictions of Egypt's flora, fauna and people were created by individuals who have had no formal art training.

More than 50 years later the Centre's magnificent tapestries confirm that innate creativity can grow with a child into adolescence and adulthood. The Egyptian Landscapes exhibition will include retrospectives of two of the weavers, charting their work from childhood. Two other weavers will be working at their looms in the gallery during the exhibition.

Since Wissa Wassef's death in 1974 his widow Sophie and daughters Suzanne and Yoanna have continued his experiment: under their guidance several further generations of Harrania children have now mastered weaving at the Art Centre. The project has transformed the lives of the villagers, bringing prosperity, education, better health, self-respect and satisfaction to all and high status to the women.

The Ramses Wissa Wassef Exhibition Trust, a UK charity No. 1108988, is organising the exhibition at the Brunei Gallery to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the "experiment in creativity" and to introduce the philosophy and the tapestries to a new generation. The tapestries will inspire and delight everyone who sees them - young and old, art lovers, educationalists, students, amateurs and professionals. Further information can be found at wissa-wassef-arts.com


Just imagine if this was repeated all over Africa. It wonderful if an organisation or individual took the prostitutes, the street kids, the drug addicts and alcoholics from Nairobi, Kampala and Dar-e-Salam to Weaving Centres during the day in order for the girls and boys to have an outlet for creativity. And give them a chance to explore something beautiful. Who cares what they do of a night, what is important is that they have a chance to establish a sense of self-worth. This is vital for the true development of contemporary Africa. It should be inclusive not exclusive. Contemporary society is lead far too much by the priviledged. Of course these Centre would also have enormous benefits to village communities too.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Tingatinga School | Tanzania

I found this website and thought I best bring it to your attention.


The site has a wonderful Collection of Tanzanian artwork from a school of art, now known as the Tingatinga School. This is an important development in the art of Tanzania.

The site has developed an Internet Exhibition that is not only informative but really worth a look.

The Tingatinga School
Edward Saidi Tingatinga - (1932-1972) He was the origin of the naive style of painting that later take his name. Tingatinga started in 1968, and although his carrer was ended prematurely in 1972, his style inspired his five students and his followers to establish the Tingatinga school of painters that continues to florish today. This Tingatinga movement constitutes a genuine form of contemporary art, original to Tanzania.

Tingatinga short lived as an artist (1968-72) but he triggered the emergence of a growing number of Tanzanian youngsters who claimed this style to be theirs and further developed it to become what is now known as the Tingatinga School of painting, a unique form of popular art genuine to Tanzania.

Today, no one dares to paint like Tingatinga anymore and there are a few signs left in present time paintings subsisting from E. S. Tingatinga's iconography.

The Tingatinga way of painting that has been entrusted to the younger generations of painters, has been percolating during the past thirty years, through the Tingatinga pyramid of know-how transfer, from teacher to student, and so on.

In this process, the initial input of E. S. Tingatinga at the very top of the pyramid has been diluted, level after level, but it has also been blending at each new stage by the timely injection of the new artists' innovations or improvements of different sorts.

Ultimately, what you see nowadays as the Tingatinga style of painting truly represents the time-matured chain-result of a popular school of art, of a popular art movement articulated on the old-fashioned, traditional way of master-to-apprentice transmission of knowledge.

Tingatinga's stroke of genius lay in the fact that he started to paint in an environment where popular painting was non-existing and fine arts painting was minimal. No matter how simplistic his renderings of wildlife might have looked, they were the spontaneous and sincere expression of an original character.

His determination radiated confidence in what he had started and became inspirational for his entourage.

As of today, the Tingatinga School of Painting has the form of a long and wide constellation of artists, with a higher density in the Dar-es-Salaam area but with patches of stars in Arusha and Zanzibar, and with a few scattered and isolated stars around the rest of the country. Within that constellation, all stars shine, but some are more brilliant than others.

Source: "Tingatinga - the popular paintings from Tanzania" - Y. Goscinny

Friday, June 02, 2006

African Art

The debate surrounding modern art in Africa has been all the rage both inside Africa and outside the continent from the beginning of the century until the last decade of the XX century. From one coast to the other, words ring out: Black Identity, African Identity, the trap of mimicry, the trap of academism, the trap of the international market, the forced marriage of tradition and modernity, the political desire for social art with a social vocation before and after the independence movement. Mixing genres is frequent between still living ritual art, popular art, urban art, recovery art and the art that certain people would like to call sophisticated. Social Anthropologists fight with too few art critics to assert a solely contextual reading. All speeches are good and accompany varied productions of varied talents. Contempt for artists who are conscious of their work has long resulted in there being seen as "sexual psychopaths sacrificed on the altar of acculturation". Attempts have even been made to portray these artists as merely "bastard" products of an impossible synthesis between Africa and the West. People want something that is authentic, true and pure, even if they have to invent it. Artists wishing to paint, sculpt or produce as they see fit have been tossed around, knocked down, and mostly ignored because they only partially participate in the debate from which they are the first to be excluded. (...)

Everybody is willing to subscribe to the idea that Africa is a single unit, provided, however, that the basis and content of this unit are specified. In actual fact, it is, quite paradoxically, a multiple unit.
It is a unit of condition, first and foremost. In all of human memory, no continent has had a fate quite like Africa's. On the negative side, this fate is a long succession of hardships, from the slave trade to colonial domination, to post-colonial abuses. On the positive side, it is a sort of ongoing success story, in which the continent constantly gets up after being knocked down, overcomes the gravest of crisis, each time regaining an autonomy that is unceasingly threatened. That is why these issues of memory are so important in today's African communities, as can be seen in it's storybook, film, musical and of course, scientific production. The message is the same in all of it's languages: restoring the greatness of "Africa the cradle of Humanity" and land of notorious empires and glorious heroes.(...)

This is why we can bet that the Africa of tomorrow will be, in people's consciousness and in fact, both a cultural area and a plurality of cultural areas.

source: "An Anthology of African Art- the XX century" - N'Goné Fall & Jean Lup Pivin