Art In The Gambia
The Gambia is the smallest country in continental Africa. It follows the banks of the River Gambia to the Atlantic Ocean. It is completely surrounded by Senegal except along its western coastal margin. There are just over 1.5 million people, with many different tribal groups speaking different local languages as well as English, French and Arabic.
Compared to some of its near neighbours in West Africa, The Gambia has created few artistic ethnographic objects. Most villages had blacksmith-craftsmen, but the cultural area with huge expertise stretching across the generations and down through the centuries was that of music and oral traditions. Musicians played drums and the kora (a complex stringed instrument). Griots, storytellers and poets who preserved knowledge of ancestors and of oral traditions, were vital guardians of the culture. However, recent decades have seen a sudden blossoming in the visual arts and the emergence of a number of internationally respected artists.
There are four really well-known Gambian visual artists who have exhibited widely, both within The Gambia and internationally. They are:
- Njogu Touray whose work is shown by Guruve. You can see examples of his work and read his biography in our online Gallery.
- Momodou Ceesay, painter and printmaker, residing in Bakau where he has his own gallery showing his work and works by upcoming young artists he has personally selected. He spent many years in the United States and is using his good connections to promote the arts in The Gambia, working especially with schoolchildren.
- Alhajie Bubacarr Badgie, a well-known painter, who we have not yet met unfortunately as he was in the United States when we visited.
- Edrisa Jobe, a painter living and working in Katchikally.
There are many young artists emerging in The Gambia today who are benefiting from the surge in interest and support that stems from both the growth in tourism and international development aid. As in many African countries, the Alliance-Francais has been particularly active in its support and has organised and/or hosted numerous exhibitions. All the artists listed above were included in their 2002 exhibition Art From The Gambia, which helped define the current state of the visual arts in the country. A number of galleries have also sprung up – the Village Gallery, African Heritage, Gaya Art galleries and the major hotels often show high quality work.
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