The artists here are really good. There is no art school, the internet is too slow to get source material, books and paint are to expensive, and in spite or because of the difficulties of making art here, a few people here, at least are really really good. The sculpters especially. Today, I went to a couple artists work spaces and felt the internal dumbfounding activating silence that I feel in an incredible exhibit at an art museum. My friend Vivian made some
paintings on little boards and sardine cans to give to this artist Abu who is a sculptor. They are collaberating on some pieces. Abu is one of the best sculptors I know here, and therefor I am shy around him and have never become his good friend. After that, we then went to the exhibition of a painter I dont know, whos eary portraits are still haunting me a bit.
People work with what they have. Sculptors work in mixed media out of garbage and wood. Broken glass and calabashes. Nails and doll heads and masks. I hope it rubs off on me.
The weird part is that they are stuck here, in Ouagadougoe. The opportunities are slim or none. People sell a couple pieces a year, and paint and glue and canvas and whatever else they need cost money. Nobody has a website. Two of my friends had more then 15 pieces stolen from them from a French gallery owner who promised to send money when the pieces sold, and then dissapeared. What could they do? Go to France and find him? They couldnt do anything except write e-mails when they got money to go the the cyber-cafe. Its tragic. Its insane. It reminds me of the feeling of being stuck in a room and really really needing out. These artists need to be known about.
I also went to a huge african mask shop with an australian mask collector that I met. He know what to look for to know if a mask was old. Rubmarks in certain places, marks for repair. A lot of the smaller masks attach because the wearer bites down on a board inside, holding it in place with their jaws. Because this guy was dropping 100 euro on old masks, and I came with him, I got to roam the place and take as many pictures as I wanted, without being heckled. Food for inspiration. The Bobo masks from this area are my favorite from all of West Africa. Painted in Black and white, with checkered patterns and diamonds, they blow me away. I know where most masks are from in West Africa when I see them, but what I want to know about is harder to get info about. What do the symbolisms mean? Why a little person on the head of that mask, why the antelope on this one, why two heads here? Most people who sell masks dont know, and they make things up to sell them. It was fun to go with the Australian guy, Andrew, because he was a collector and knew what to look for.
I didnt actually make anything today, and now I am off to a concert, but I am packed full of inspiration. Africa is a crazy place, and there are things that are really hard about living here, but the art, both traditional and contemporary, is so alive, and so recourceful, it makes me want to stay here forever.