Africa Defense Forum
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Art Festival Returns to Senegal’s Streets


Senegalese artist Fally Sene Sow took inspiration from the depressing days of the COVID-19 pandemic to build a vision of what his neighborhood might someday resemble in Dakar.

He built an array of model buildings in a room, each in varying stages of dilapidation, surrounded by skeletons and grotesque animals covering 30 square meters.

Sow, 34, is among the artists and groups chosen for the 14th Dakar Biennale, one of Africa’s oldest art celebrations. The event hadn’t been held since 2020 because of the pandemic. 

“I live at the heart of the market and so I have this theater before me,” Sow told Reuters as he put finishing touches on his work.

“It is mind-blowing,” Ifeoma Dile, an art enthusiast from London, told Reuters of Sow’s work. “I have goosebumps just looking at all this and how long must it have taken him to create that in this space. It is amazing.”

The 2022 Biennale featured work from more than 2,500 artists from 85 countries. In the past, the festival has brought in up to 250,000 visitors.

One installment along the beach shows two pyramid-shaped mausoleums. Dozens of faces appear to scream from interior and outside walls. A line of shoes leads away from the tombs and toward the cliff edge of Dakar’s corniche, an image by Senegalese artist Yakhya Ba intended to show migrant struggles.

Egyptian artist Khaled Zaki’s large yellow dog sculpture is intended for children, and to draw attention to the problem of stray canines in Dakar.

The festival took place as war raged in Europe between Russia and Ukraine. Artistic director El Hadji Malick Ndiaye told Agence France-Presse that art was necessary to encourage reflection in such difficult times.

“When weapons crackle, we must make sure culture does too,” he said.

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