By Roisin Breen

Following the presentation of the CHANEL Métiers d’art 2022/23 show in Dakar, le19M launched its first international programme of exhibitions and events in the Senegalese capital celebrating the artisanal expertise and rich cultural heritage that is brimming not only in Dakar, but across the entire country. Enlisting the expertise of the Institut fondamental d’Afrique noire (IFAN) the exhibition was held at the Musée Théodore-Monod d’Art africain, bringing together cultures, history and heritage, a programme that interlaced the connections between embroidery and weaving, and other artistic disciplines such as painting, photography, or installation.

le19M in Paris will now host the exhibition until 30th July, bringing together thirty works and installations across all media, created by thirty different artists, craftsmen, manufactures, and collectives working with textiles.

Here’s our roundup of some of the artists that caught our eye:

Alassane Koné

Le lien, 2022
Embroidery on canvas
68 × 52 cm
Courtesy of Agence TRAMES
Untitled, 2022
Embroidery on canvas
60 × 61 cm
Courtesy of Agence TRAMES

Born in the weavers’ district of Bamako, Mali, Alassane Koné is a self-taught artist who first experimented with wire sculpture before turning to textiles. Using freeform embroidery stitch, he creates striking and realistic forms of women, men, and children in everyday scenes using luminous and understated colors – the softness and calm that emanate from them reflect the character of the artist who can spend weeks on his works. Meeting with Koné he warmly tells us about his artistic process, preferring to work late into the night in his atelier, away from the hustle and bustle of the other artists sharing the space. He was keen to wander the streets of Paris at night, and to photograph the people in the streets there for a future series of works, First Time in Paris. He takes inspiration from friends, family, other artists and particularly children around him “Kids,” he says, “are the most honest mentors, they haven’t learnt to have ‘taste’ yet, they make instinctive choices and it’s the most natural form of art.”

Arébénor Bassène

La danse du guerrier, 2022
Acrylic paint, natural pigments, ink, and graphite on canvas
205 × 163 cm
Courtesy Galerie Selebe Yoon

Arébénor Bassène uses a variety of materials including paper, gum arabic (the raw material that drew foreign sailors to the West African coast), the ink used for Koranic tablets, fouden (henna), wood residues, and natural pigments from the Dakar region. While his monumental pieces tend towards abstraction, with natural landscapes devoid of historical reference points, his recent practice integrates figurative elements. On his canvases or works on paper made using the batik technique (dyeing by dipping in wax and colour baths), moving human forms appear, sometimes only limbs—an arm, a foot, a leg. They represent a rooting in the ground and resonate like evocations of traditional Diola dances in Casamance, the artist’s native region, where dancers strike the ground wildly with their feet. His process, he tells us, is to let the materials make the image come alive on their own. 

A graduate of the National School of Arts of Senegal, the Senegalese painter is inspired by the first African migrations to Andalusia, by ancient Egypt as told by Cheikh Anta Diop, or by his family’s Diola culture. His works have been exhibited, amongst others, at the Dakar Biennale, at the Musée Théodore-Monod d’Art africain / IFAN in Dakar, during Regards sur Cours in Gorée, and at the Galerie Atiss in Dakar (2017).

Johanna Bramble × Fatim Soumaré

Magnétude, 2022
Performative installation
Dimensions of the installation: 1,000 × 110 cm Final weave size: 1,000 × 80 cm
Collection of the two artists

Magnétude is a performative installation composed of two looms which share the same warp. As they weave, the looms come closer and closer together until they form a single fabric. While this craftsmanship is governed by the singularity of each weaver’s “hand”, the tension of the final fabric is the product of a collaborative force between two artists and two master weavers, Joah and Ngone Diallo. Performers for the duration of the exhibition, they worked together with humility. Magnétude was conceived by Johanna Bramble and Fatim Soumaré during a joint residency in 2022 in the Sine-Saloum region of Senegal, as an artistic manifestation of their beliefs and approaches to traditional weaving. The installation is at once throught-provoking and dynamic, juxtoposoing the views of two female artists, using what is typically a male dominated craft, to weave together a differing yet interlaced vision.

Johanna Bramble (b. 1976, Paris) lives and works between Abidjan and Dakar. In a constant search for the possible extensions of weaving, it was during residencies at the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation in the United States, then at the Villa Romana in Florence, Italy, that she approached the installation to develop her approach. She now collaborates with Senegalese weavers who use the traditional weaving techniques found in her textile creations, but she is also inspired by geometric patterns whose symbolism oscillates between the country’s rich textile culture and contemporary interpretations. She participated in the Congo Biennale in 2022 as well as the Off of the Dakar Biennale. Her work has been presented in institutions such as the Musée Bargoin in Clermont-Ferrand, the Muséum d’histoire naturelle in Le Havre, France, and the ifa Gallery in Berlin, Germany.

Fatim Soumaré is a Senegalese artist living in the Sine-Saloum. Her passion for textiles led her to discover an ancestral African tradition: the falè (artisanal spinning of organic, rainfed cotton) and its cultural, social, and economic dimension. Driven to help to spread this tradition in order to avoid its disappearance, she created the Falè brand which employs a collective of 200 women artisans in five villages of the Sine-Saloum.

Manel Ndoye

Femmes dévouées, 2022
Indigo fabric strips, bazin, thioup, fishing line 150 × 210 cm
Collection of the artist

Fascinated by the fishing community, Manel Ndoye’s artistic gestures are deployed on materials that are familiar to the Lebou, such as the fishing nets or plastic mats used by the women when they gather in cooperatives. For the exhibition, Manel Ndoye created a work from indigo scraps provided by Marie-Madeleine Diouf. He added scraps of bazin and thioup (dyed bazin), in reference to the large boubous worn by women on important occasions. The strips were cut, ironed, assembled by his designer brother, and held together with fishing line. Some were also embroidered to highlight certain accessories or facial features. Two women are shown standing in a powerful posture, preparing for the ndawrabine dance invented by the women of the community to honor the work of their husbands and sons at sea. The work pays tribute to the aura of these women, evokes their shared heritage, as they pass on this dance from mother to daughter, as well as their economic importance, as they are the ones who sell the fish on the fishing pier. For Manel Ndoye, using strips of blue fabric is “a leap into monochrome” but it is also “his color”, that of the sea. He was on the verge of entering the Manufactures de Thiès in 2010 after graduating from the École des Beaux-Arts, but he has retained a taste for graphic constructions and a certain idea of trompe-l’œil.

Julian Farade
× Khadija Ba
× the embroiderers of Ngaye Mekhe

Julien Farade
Making of broderie Ngaye Mbékhé (c) Badara Preira

Les ailes jaunes, 152 × 120 cm
La demande, 188 × 120 cm
Le village des espoirs, 155 × 118 cm
Sur les traces de l’oiseau bleu, 156 × 120 cm Bataille, 190 × 120 cm
Ici les arbres sont bleus, 172 × 120 cm
Drôle d’oiseau, 170 × 150 cm
La parade rouge, 190 × 120 cm
Le Furtif, 174 × 120 cm
Le grand départ, 170 × 123 cm
Hémisphère source, 174 × 120 cm
Ink, acrylic, and embroidery on raw Malikane cotton, 2022
Collection of the artist

This is the story of an encounter, an unprecedented collaboration between a French-based visual artist, a Senegalese stylist, and the embroiderers of the village of Ngaye Mekhe, about a hundred kilometers north of Dakar. The chaotic movement and clashing colors in Julian Farade’s paintings were tamed by the geometric shapes of the embroidery designs, made exclusively by women in the village heralded for its embroidery, shoemaking, and basketry crafts. On the ivory-coloured Malikane cotton, generally embroidered and used by women to carry their children on their backs, Julian Farade laid out forms somewhere between figuration and abstraction, giving rise to suns, houses, or strange animals. The designer Khadija Ba then took four of the pagne fabrics and worked on them with her longtime collaborator and embroiderer Adji Fall Wade, who has her own workshop in the district of Geule Tapée in Dakar. Six other pagnes were brought to fifteen embroiderers in the village of Ngaye Mekhe. Each pattern has its own name and the thread used is referred to as nitou tay in Wolof (the people of today), because when the thread is unwound, its color shifts between light and dark, changeable like ‘the people of today.’ The project was a unique approach to collaboration, with no discussion taking place prior to the creation – Faraday created his paint works and left the embroiderers to interpret his abstract ideas however they pleased. The result is both tender, joyful and striking, a genuine prose weft into each work telling the story of the artists and the country they inhabit. 

Julian Farade
Born in Paris in 1986, French artist Julian Farade lives and works in Paris and is currently in residency at POUSH in Aubervilliers. Whether painted, drawn, woven, or engraved, his fantastical animals are everywhere. Somewhere between figuration and abstraction, Julian Farade works represent a constant, chaotic clash of form and color. 

Khadija Ba
Khadija Aisha Ba Diallo is the creator of the brand L’Artisane and of the boutique Le Sandaga, whose showpiece is a restyled boubou for men. Playing with graphics, patterns, cuts, and the addition of rather playful details, she embellishes her creations with jewelry, bronze accessories, and leatherwork.

The embroiderers of Ngaye Mekhe
The village of Ngaye Mekhe is known in Senegal for the quality of its savoir-faire. While the men are in charge of leather crafts and shoemaking, more than 1000 women are involved in sewing in the village and its surroundings, and a further 200 in embroidery, an expertise which they have mostly inherited from their mothers and grandmothers. Their designs are part of a rich intangible heritage and a tradition going back over more than four centuries.
The embroiderers are: 

Ndèye Biram Diagne, Coumba Diouf, Codou Balla Fall, Aïda Gueye, Mbenda Mbow, Seynabou Mbow, Khady Niang, Dibor Ndiaye, Thialla Ndiaye, Asta Sylla, Khady Sylla, Bineta Thiam, and Mame Seye Thiam.

Conceived by:
— Riad Fakhri; head of the TRAMES space,
— Olivia Marsaud; curator

— El Hadji Malick Ndiaye;  curator
— Selly Raby Kane; designer and filmmaker 

Accompanied by artistic contributors: 

— Audrey d’Erneville; graphic designer
— Bibi Seck; designer
— Mamy Tall; architect 

The artists:

Aïcha Aïdara, Khadija Ba, Alioune Badiane, Arébénor Bassène, Johanna Bramble, Khalil Cissé, Mbali Dhlamini, Viyé Diba, Alioune Diouf, Marie-Madeleine Diouf, Julian Farade, Pauline Guerrier, Kalidou Kassé, Souleymane Keita, Alassane Koné, Benjamin Monteil, Cécile Ndiaye, Abdoulaye Ndoye, Manel Ndoye, Selly Raby Kane, Cheikha Sigil, Fatim Soumaré, Malick Welli, Aska Yamashita

The artisans of the Maisons d’art, manufactures & collectives:

Atelier Montex, The Falè collective, Kër Thiossane, Lemarié, Lesage

The Manufactures Sénégalaises des Arts Décoratifs de Thiès The embroiderers of Ngaye:

Mekhe, Paloma

Discover the full exhibition until 30th July 2023.

la Galerie du 19M

2 place Skanderbeg 75019 Paris

Open Wednesday to Friday from 11:00 to 18:00, Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 to 19:00.

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