Alioune Diouf: Encountering Spirituality through Art

Alioune Diouf: Encountering Spirituality through Art - Omenka Online

From painting, sewing to drawings and sculptures, Alioune Diouf’s work is multifaceted and populated by interwoven characters, animals, and cosmic and floral elements. As a self-taught artist, he has successfully established for himself a practical philosophy and spirituality, free of institutional influences. Diouf also disseminates through his work, universal symbols that have prompted ancient civilisation’s imagination for their sacred quality; the cross, the eye, the egg, the moon. As universal as these might be, they constitute the intimate and spiritual repertoire of the artist. The bird – the intercessor between the sky and the earth – often leaning on the artist’s characters, is a messenger of the spirit. The cross evokes an axe and represents man in his desire for elevation; the egg – a symbol of life – is often wrapped inside the characters’ turbans, suspended above their heads or concealed in their forehead.

Your technique involves painting with natural pigments, as well as age-old African methods of weaving. How do you derive and process your pigments and why is it important that you involve traditional methods of making art?

Alioune Diouf: Encountering Spirituality through Art - Omenka Online

Installation view of Ubeku

We do not wait for materials to come from the West to do what we need to do. As I always need materials, I search for them wherever I go. I especially like natural pigments because nature provides them and everyone is free to grab them. I use traditional materials: bissap (hibiscus), baobab fruit, kola nuts, coffee, charcoal, rocks, clay… Also important is how they are combined. Through these materials, you can produce a new colour or a new form. This is the intelligence of mixing. It is not mystical nor mythical, it is just natural.

Your recent exhibition “irremediably carries us towards a unity that holds the variety of the world”. Please tell us more about the show, what you hope to convey to the public through its theme, and the reception it has received so far.

Installation view of Ubeku

‘Ubeku’ (openness) is about accepting and accompanying existences – to respect them. ‘Ubeku’ holds a human value. It is about welcoming others. Without being open, we cannot give to others. To give our entire heart does not prevent one from dying, and keeping it for ourselves does not prevent us from dying. So to share it before dying is my choice. When we speak about ‘Renaissance’, I am not referring to the African Renaissance, but the real human renaissance – with values. It was a spiritual encounter with all the people that have accompanied the residency and exhibition. That’s why it was more than an exhibition.

You enjoy a reputation as one of the artists responsible for revitalising the Village des Arts, please tell us more about this experience.

This experience is what led me to become a revolutionary for the arts. Through the Village des Arts, I was able to dedicate myself to my work. The forever stubborn child is the ‘soul’ and the soul is a child too. To accept children is to accept ourselves. Children are the foundation of humankind so we must respect them. Children are also the seeds of humanity.

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Oliver Enwonwu is founder and Editor-in-Chief of Omenka magazine, Director, Omenka Gallery and Chief Executive, Revilo. He holds a first degree in Biochemistry, advanced diploma in Exploration Geophysics (distinction), Post Graduate Diplomas in Applied Geophysics and Visual Art (distinction) and a Masters in Art History, all from the University of Lagos. He is the founder, Executive Director, and trustee of The Ben Enwonwu Foundation. He also sits on the board of several organizations including the National Gallery of Art, Nigeria and the Reproduction Rights Society of Nigeria. Enwonwu is also president of both the Society of Nigerian Artists and the Alliance of Nigerian Art Galleries.

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