My name is Seydou Diedhiou, I am a visual artist. After my studies at the Fine Arts school, I had the feeling that my works were never completed. I had a problem of space too. I didn’t even finish my studies at the Fine Arts school because of personal reasons: I had to work at my family’s home, but the family environment was not good for my work.
It is with [the artist] Kan-Si that I found a way that sums up all that I wanted to say through painting, which is a fundamental means of expression for me, because I am among those who express themselves through what they do.
The whole thing began with the workshop he proposed to me on sous verre painting, which was followed by a two-year residence at the studio in Joal. It was under their supervision that I could convert my way of working from sous verre onto canvas.
When I came back to Dakar, I tried to work on a theme about the goat and writing. In my way of doing things, I try to be a bit engaged to what happens around me. For me, Africa only can develop through agriculture. We have to try to solve the food self-sufficiency problem.
So, it was on that basis that I started working on an element which would allow me to take a pre-text: the goat. I showed the work to Kan-Si and he was very impressed by it. But since I had some difficulties to continue the task, I stopped it for a while. It was afterwards that he called me and asked me if I would be interested in working at the hangar, the workplace of Portes et Passages association.
When I gave him my consent, he took me to Joal, to the Association. I stayed there for two years. Those two years were really extraordinary, for the place turned to be an ideal one. There was plenty of energy there and I had many working possibilities. So, each time they [artists Kan-si and Muhsana Ali] came, I was under their direction, they had things to say about what I was doing.
When he saw that I had continued developing my sur verre paintings in Joal, he said: “Can’t you put them on canvas?” Just an example of how they intervened in my work.
I then followed their advice about painting on canvas. For two years, I could not see any impact because I had to come back, I was ill at that time. I left and I continued working up to the point that I had a proposal to take part in an exhibition; it was really moving for me because it was my first show. It was at the Eiffage Exhibition in January 2009.
It was my first group exhibition and it really surprised me. All the paintings on canvas that I exhibited were sold. They [Kan-Si and Muhsana Ali] didn’t abandon me, I must say, even if there had been two years of rupture, they came to the exhibition.
This has played a very important role in general, but above all, I think the assistance I got from them for my work worked like ice, in the sense that you can add water to the ice to increase it, or you can melt it and drink it according to your thirst. The directives they gave me now enable me to ‘dilute’ myself into my work the way I like. This is to explain that I have plenty in my mind [and I learnt how to manage the flow of ideas/images].
That exhibition enabled me to participate in other ones, it opened doors for me. One of these doors was the exhibition organized by the British Council in which I was given the award.
The most significant change [that happened to me] has been the fact of having been able to express what is inside me, to capture it, to work on it any time I feel like painting and that I have the materials to do so.
At the relational level, it has changed the ideas that my family members used to have about me, for, in the past, they used to say: “You, artists, you are dreamers”. Now, I have gained some more respect. I am going to tell you an anecdote: when I was attending the Fine Arts school, any time my father came from work and found me painting, he would say “There is a lunatic sitting over there!”. After taking part in that exhibition, I was able to take care of my brothers and sisters’ school fees. This is something I really enjoyed. There is nothing better for an artist than showing your work and being encouraged to earn money for solving the family problems, such as taking part in the education of your brothers and, above all, of your sisters.