My piece is a multimedia sculpture piece, which explores the relationship of the fisherman culture and the story of Mame Coumba Bang, a protective spirit in the river of my mother’s hometown on the Island of N’dar in Saint Louis, Senegal. The main part of the sculpture is a boat, known locally as a pirogue, painted in the iconic style of a fisherman’s pirogue in Senegal, with a handmade fishing net hanging out of the boat. The piece also shows a Calabash which was used in everyday life traditionally in Senegal. Now it is mainly used to make offerings to the river goddess in exchange for the town’s protection.
In Senegal, oral tradition is an invaluable part of the culture and has played an essential role in keeping important histories and legacies in the country. This tradition being carried on is also a main way that I have kept a strong connection to the country despite having never lived there. This is reflected in the piece as two sound pieces which are recordings of my mother recounting the story of Mame Coumba Bang in Wolof and French. Whilst I was initially concerned about the language barrier with a mainly Anglophone audience, to translate it to English would detach the story from its origins significantly. I also felt that it may not necessarily be a hindrance to one’s experience with the piece. I experienced a similar cultural barrier with the piece Memory by Dale Harding and Jordan Upkett, a mural which represents stories that their aboriginal community can only partly share with outsiders. Having to listen to a story in a language one doesn’t understand can create a common experience of figuring out how to engage with an unfamiliar culture. Thus, the piece creates a different relationship depending on whether one can engage with the language or just the visual aspects of the piece.
This was quite a challenging piece to make as I don’t have much experience with woodwork. I wanted to explore sculpture as a curating module I took on my study abroad in Monash in Australia made me want to make work where I could experiment more with the curation and create a more interactive piece as compared to my paintings from last year.
This was a personal piece about reconnecting with my heritage whilst living abroad but was also a tool of sharing a cultural experience and story with an audience that may not necessarily have encountered it otherwise. My experience of making the piece resonated with the work of 3 artists from the African diaspora in the article Going Back Home in a recent Frieze magazine, whose work was about revisitation, the power of personal histories, the practice of archiving and the legacy of colonialism, as “Many born as a consequence of colonialism and mass displacement embark upon similar journeys of ancestral discovery” (Morris 2019).
Morris, Kadish. 2019. “Going back home.” Frieze 195-198.
The current ideas I have considered about the curation of my pirogue:
- Front of the boat will be slightly elevated, to look like it is coming from a wave and make it more of an active piece
- Going to lay some fabric on the floor to make it seem like it is coming out the waves
- A fishing net will drape off the pirogue, either from the back or the front of the pirogue
- Keeping the same 2 audio pieces from my Week 8 exhibition
- Headphones will be placed on the pillars on either side of the pirogue
I signed up for the exhibition committee as part of the curatorial team, this was a really exciting but challenging role to undertake, but with the proposals on hand, we managed to effectively place all of our coursemates.
My piece was placed in Spur F, it will be displayed alongside four other sculptural floor pieces placed around the middle of the room.
My tutor sent me this Frieze article which really resonated with me and the direction my practice has gone this term.
After creating my pirogue, I had to update my initial design idea to one which would fit the proportions of the structure I had built and this was the final version:
As most pirogue’s have their designs on a white background, I started off by painting a white base
I then went onto to drawing out the design I planned to paint, this proved rather challenging as the shapes were quite organic so quite difficult to try and measure out, I mainly had to do it by freehand.
Below is the first stage of completing the painting, I now plan to make some of the edges smoother and to add a few layers of paint in some areas
After some refinement this is what the pirogue looks like, I’m quite happy with it although the lines are still not quite as clean as I would’ve liked, in future, I would perhaps have used masking tape in order to prevent this.
For my piece, I decided to be a bit ambitious and go out of my comfort zone as from the start I was drawn to the idea of creating my own version of a pirogue. As I wanted to create a physical object that the audience could engage with that I felt was a significant symbol of the fisherman’s culture in Saint Louis.
After figuring out the maths behind the measurements, I started off by cutting out the external shape of the pirogue.
After this, Adam recommended I create an internal frame to give strength to the structure as seen below:
Once the frame was built, I attached the MDF boards to it:
This process was quite a lot more difficult than I expected, I hadn’t built anything in the workshop since my first year at university so going in with this idea at first was a bit daunting. Although some of the measurements didn’t come out perfect, I’m glad I dove in headfirst and took the risk of trying as I am really proud of the structure that I have managed to build over the Easter break.
After doing my research I played around with the idea of creating my own design for a pirogue, which would be in homage to the spirit of Mame Coumba Bang. From the video I had watched, I decided to incorporate personal aspects to the design of the pirogue. Like many pirogues, I incorporated the colours and design of the Senegalese flag, but I also incorporated the colours of the Norwegian flag. I thought this was important as these are the two countries which have influenced my identity and upbringing the most as both my parents are from Senegal but I was born in Norway and spent most of my early years there.
I also found it quite significant to name the pirogue after Mame Coumba Bang, most fishermen do tend to give their pirogues a female name but also significantly the video I watched of the pirogue painter mentioned that it was important to have an emblem which brings luck to the fishermen. As the protector of the town and the waters, having the pirogue named after Mame Coumba Bang was my way of symbolising the luck needed.
For the Art Clubbers Bloomin’ exhibition, I had the opportunity to work as an exhibition assistant alongside curator Annie Dam as well as being an exhibiting artist. This experience was more rewarding and insightful than I could have ever imagined. As a University student, at times creating and working with art in the professional world seems out of reach, but through this experience, I learned valuable skills about the preparation and set-up of an exhibition. I also met some inspiring and talented artists, which overall has made the idea of graduating and pursuing work in the art world seem more attainable. I’d like to thank Art Clubbers for creating such a vibrant and welcoming environment for my first exhibition experience outside of academia!