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


Joe Pollitt said...

I want to start a discussion on the subject of the role of an artist. Here we have a wonderful example of political art. Powerful, shocking images about the issue of female circumcision.

Should artists use their art for the benefit of the greater good or should we continue to support primitive imagery of the wildlife of the continent?

Suzanne is a perfect example of an artist willing to put herself and her art on the line. The problem is that she has no audience. Those in Africa and we here in the West need to create strategies and platforms for artists to express themselves without being alienated.

There is some fantastic artwork being produced throughout the Continent and highlights the fact that contemporary art throughout the Continent is changing and becoming a force for good. The artists and their work needs our support.

sokari said...

All Art is political on some level it is just a matter of how overt the message is. In the case of Suzanne it is unfortunate that she doesnt have a huge audience that is able to take her message forward. However I think it is very possible that at a local level people will pick up on that message. Change will only take place by being consistent and persevering with the message. I am sure she is not alone and others are also contributing to the debate on FGM in Burkina Faso. Thanks for bringing her art to our attention.

Joe Pollitt said...

Sokari. Suzanne lives in a muslim country where female circumcision is the norm. Being outspoken in Africa is frowned upon especially as a woman. Suzanne has little support from the artist community in West Africa, who consider's her work far too risky. There is a real reason why there are so few female artists in West Africa. Personally, I would like to bring her work to the attention of the wider world as it has huge value to the contemporary African community on and off the continent. Here we have an artist who is finally trying to make a difference in art. The majority of artists work to feed themselves, especially in Africa. It is social suicide to be outspoken as an artist in Africa but Suzanne has stuck to her guns and her efforts should be appauled. What would be good is if a female instution, like the Womens Library in London or the WI etc could commission Suzanne to produce a series of paintings covering all aspects and issues surrounding women in West Africa. Themes like "Child Labour", "Domestic Violence", "Prostitution" etc..
Sokari, maybe this is something you could organize. You would be doing the African community a great service if you did.

Presently, too much of the art being produced throughout black Africa has a sense of desperation and the work reflects this. It seems most of the work being produced is aimed for the tourists or rich businessmen. There are numerous talented artists throughout the continent but there is no financial support or security in Africa.

The main issue for artists in Africa is patronage. What is needed are groups to commission artists to secure their lives and enable the artists to create wonderful powerful work without worrying whether or not the work will sell.

nigeria, what's new said...

"Suzanne has little support from the artist community in West Africa, who consider's her work far too risky." is a reason to screem for joy. I don't have enough words to explain myself but this helped "These people — artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers—will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.” —Dan Pink, A Whole New Mind. Why? They have shared with us their gifts.

Chinwe Azubuike said...

Your enthusiasm and support, especially for Female African Artists and writers as well is very much admired by those of us who are often restricted to certain issues as an African woman.

Thank you Joe for setting up this Blog.., There's a lot of vibrance and life to the works of all the artists on it. Thank you for posting my poem.

Lots of love.. Chinwe Azubuike.

Yarbi Design said...

Joe, my husband is from Burkina Faso and we are starting a small art biz in the US. I have a painting by a male Burkinabe artist which addresses circumcision as part of initiation. But I have never seen a Burkinabe artist (male or female) address FGC as a theme. It's a topic I'm intensely interested in and always wanted to explore it more during my time in Burkina. I found that most women and even health workers were very reluctant to discuss FGC. More so than those in Kenya, where I also lived and researched FGC.

Our business is just getting started; my husband is a welder and makes primarily furniture. We are also working with local artisans back in Burkina and are importing some of their pieces. Our goal is to have a studio/gallery here, highlighting Burkinabe art. And slowly, we are being introduced to interior designers, gallery owners, etc.

We are planning a trip later this year back to Burkina. I'd love to get the contact for Suzanne. I noticed the FGC series was from 2000-2003. What other issues does she address? Even if nothing transpires of this, I think she is extremely talented and courageous for focusing on this topic. And how fitting of her photo; her baby on her back. That’s social change in the works.

Joe Pollitt said...

This message is going out to Rabi and Nancy at Yabi Designs. Good luck with your project with Burkinabe artists. The best people to talk to about the subject outside of Burkina is firstly a chap I met about 5 years ago called Ronald Jung from Essen, Germany. He has dedicated the last decade in promoting artists from Burkina. Here is his website: www.modern-african-art.com. It is in German, French and English.

Also I found this as well.

pEDRO said...

amazing work.

sis.slaine said...

i would love 2 set up a radio interview about yourself and what u do. i can b contacted also on montgomery_slaine@yahoo.co.uk. the ststion that i work 4 id called www.playvybz.com i have a inflomation show with sly(me) n legs. i hope 2 here from u soon

out of many came nuff


Bonaventure said...

Dear Joe,

thanks very much for bringing up this article on Susan... with her paintings that speak so much louder than words!

I am a Cameroonian painter and engineer based in Berlin and I have been trying to bring out this message in my own humble way (not only as a man) to a wider public here in Germany. Some 4 years ago i did a painting on Female Circumcision and I have been chanced to expose it in 3 exhibitions (2x in Düsseldorf and 1x in Berlin). It always had a very good resonance in the public, as I underlined the painting with much reading material on this topic. Some german artist-friends even went as far as doing works also on the topic to increase its communication-platform.
You could have a look at www.bonaventology.myphotoalbum.com or www.soh-bonny.com (under abstraction and signs) to have a brief impression....

Coming back to your question: I use my artist role as a communicator, just like a griot uses his songs to pass on a message or a story... be it political, historical or social...

there are many very good contemporay african artists out here with a hell of a message to pass on... Thanks for playing your part in giving them a stage to shout out!

Greetings from Berlin

celebrityblogger said...

How does one contact Suzanne, if anyone has that information

WestCoastCA-artsy said...

I plan on sharing Suzanne's message/paintings with fellow students who are curious as to the extent to which women in communities such as Suzanne's have a voice when it comes to female circumcision - powerful work, thank you!