‘Soul Brothers’ is a duo exhibition featuring works of drawing, painting, mixed media and sculpture by Lune Diagne and Sambou Diouf, two young Senegalese artists newly discovered in the Dakar art scene. It is presented by OH GALLERY as part of their ‘Outside the Walls’ programme, this time at the French Institute’s Galerie Le Manège, led by Olivia Marsaud.
The portrait of the anonymous rifleman reaches its limits at the edges of the keyhole within which it is framed, that sits inside the coffin form. These cues remind the viewers that we are privy to something we would not normally, or should not, see.
Despite their distinct artistic practices, there are common factors that unite both artists, such as their study at Beaux-Arts, Dakar, in 2007 and 2011, respectively, and the subjects they explore as seen in their related series ‘Tirailleurs’. Lune Diagne, also known as Alioune Diagne, is a multidisciplinary artist, plastic artist, choreographer and dancer who lives in Senegal and the Netherlands. He was a student at the School of Fine Arts in Dakar from 2006 to 2007. At the end of 2007, he devoted himself to contemporary dance. Still, he continued to practice drawing, which eventually led him to take an active interest in the visual arts by collaborating with plastic artists to create performances around works that inspire him. After devoting many years to dance, Diagne returned to the visual arts with a series of paintings and drawings on the facial expression of Senegalese tirailleurs massacred at the Thiaroye camp on December 01, 1944. This ‘Tirailleurs’ series has attracted the attention of art and science professionals like historian Jean-François Leguil-Bayart who wrote an article on Diagne in which he said that the works restore “the right memory, a critical presence of the past, stripped of any resentment, of all hatred, of all anger, but which recalls what was and should not have been.”
Sambou Diouf is a visual artist who lives in Dakar and Saint-Louis in Senegal. Embracing the creative context from which he has grown, he uses his paintings as a means of dialogue with his predecessors and peers. His interest in the symbiosis between human and animal in Senegal is shared with several other artists of his generation, which includes Aliou Diack (also known as Badou) and Serigne Ibrahima Dieye.
In describing Diouf’s rendition of ‘Tirailleur’, Dakar-based Curator, Dulcie Abrahams Altass wrote: “Diouf produced Tirailleur (“Rifleman”), a powerful painting that takes the tropes of Portraits but transforms them for this homage. The work is itself shaped like a coffin, one of Diouf’s recurring motifs expanded and becoming the container for the portrait itself, a gesture of care towards the riflemen who were only given proper burials some two years after their execution. The portrait of the anonymous rifleman reaches its limits at the edges of the keyhole within which it is framed, that sits inside the coffin form. These cues remind the viewers that we are privy to something we would not normally, or should not, see”.
While Diagne and Diouf have never met, the similarity in expression is quite striking. Their works attempt to reconstruct a common history, share a duty of memory, a quest for truth, identity with their ancestors, and their blood: the Senegalese riflemen (Tirailleurs). Through colour, creation, exploration of new textures, questioning of form, and above all their respective and repetitive stylisations of the almost obsessive portrait, both artists have tried to give an identity, a face to these broken mouths, these forgotten ones whose fragmented memories seek to bring forth the allegory, the symbol of a humanity rediscovered through an unknown soldier.
‘Soul Brothers’ is on view at Galerie le Manège (French Institute), Dakar, until July 15, 2021.