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by Kathleen Menéndez

Pyrography News From Around the World

Newsletter No. 26, Page One of Three


Page One:
- Djibril N'Doye: Reflecting on Traditions of Senegal

Page Two:
- Dominic Angarano: Exploring Native American Traditions

Page Three:
- Ilanna Sharon Mandel: A Passion for Art and Peace
- Antique Folk Art of Russia and Austria

Djibril N'Doye: Reflecting on Traditions of Senegal

Our Mothers
by Djibril N'Doye, © 1999

Djibril's village, an ancient Senegalese village where everyone knows each other,
continues to protect an aspect of society that is very important: communal life.

After spending his childhood helping his mother with some of her daily chores,
Djibril always admires the manner in which the women work together.

This drawing illustrates typical traditional village life for these women
in which Djibril sees the harmony in their friendship,
the solidarity in social life, the beauty and the joy of living.

Pyrography on birch wood panel

Image courtesy of the artist

An Autodidactic Professional Artist

Artist Djibril N'Doye is from Bargny, Senegal on the West African coast. Djibril looks to his childhood to understand his country, remember his past, and discover himself, and his art reflects that intellectual and emotional journey.

Djibril emigrated to the United States in 1995, where he is currently residing in Sierra Madre, California. Not a year had gone by for Djibril in the United States before one of his works--a ballpoint pen drawing, Taking Root and Blossoming--was selected for the program cover of the National Council of Black Studies 20th Annual National Conference held in Washington, D.C., in November 1996. His artworks are in collections throughout West Africa, the United States, Mexico, Cuba, Western Europe, and Japan.

Remembering Senegal

Although he is a self-taught artist, Djibril's work is by no means folk art. Nor, although his works reflect traditional themes, could his work be termed traditional art. The sophistication and originality of his style are remarkable; the grace and elegance striking; and the rhythm and movement of his compositions compelling.

The thoughtfully written captions accompanying the images here are not only helpful but most enjoyable. Taken from Djibril's very professional website designed by his wife Mary, the captions are the key to unlocking for us his artistic process and sensibilities, which reflect his cultural origins.

Unlike so many artists who one day 'discovered' pyrography, Djibril always knew about pyrography in Senegal, where it is a decorative and ritual art technique. Nevertheless, he started working in oil painting and watercolors, then developed his very successful ballpoint pen technique, explored charcoal, and only in recent years decided to develop his own technique in pyrography: "I like that I can do an art work with only one tool," he remarks, "I think because it is something simple it has made me go farther in my art."

Enjoy a 'virtual tour' of Senegal as seen through the eyes of Djibril N'Doye, one of that country's outstanding artists.

Le Tamisage (Sifting Couscous Flour)
by Djibril N'Doye, © 2001

"Sifting the pulverized grain is the next-to-last step
in preparation of couscous. Using a standard
"couscous-sized" sifter will guarantee its consistency.
This woman is in the process of giving the moistened
flour granular uniformity before it is steamed
for the meal."

Danse à la calebasse
by Djibril N'Doye, © 2001

"There are many forms of expression in the areas of
music and dance. All societies have their own style(s).
Music and dance play a very positive role in life
in any given society, particularly contributing to the
health and well being of each individual.

Djibril grew up in an environment where music is
an integral part of everyday life. There is no separate
'school' for dance; everyone is exposed to the joy
of rhythmic movement and encouraged to participate.

While dancing, these women play percussive instruments
made with gourds and decorated with beads and/or cowrie
shells, which resonate against the outside of the calabash."

Triage au riz (Sorting the rice)
by Djibril N'Doye, © 2001

"Most families in Senegal have at least one
of their daily meals with rice. After the rice
is harvested, there are often little non-food
particles mixed in that need to be meticulously
removed before the rice is cooked. This woman
is in the process of separating those particles
from the rice."

Riity Player
by Djibril N'Doye, © 2001

"Djibril likes the traditional music of his home
country, Senegal, very much. The "riity" is a
musical instrument used frequently by
cowherders. Practically nomadic, they live in
small grass huts near the prairies where it is
easy for their herds to graze.

The Riity is made from a gourd cut in half,
a tree branch, a few pieces of metal and
some nails. The bowstring and the one string
on the body are made from the hair of a
horse's tail. When played, the sound is similar
to that of a violin."

Pyrography on birch wood panels

Images courtesy of the artist

Closing Notes

Another vital aspect of Djibril N'Doye's art is its universality. While viewing his art and reading his reflections on his life in Senegal, we not only learn about the customs and society of his Senegal but are confronted with the memories of so many social customs in our own communities that have been all but forgotten as we have allowed and still allow technological and commercial influences to reshape the very structure and core values of our modern society.

Djibril Talks of Todjal and Fire Rituals

"Much of my recent work," Djibril explains, "has been created by burning my drawings on wood, but this technique is not new to me. In the environment where I grew up, decorative woodburning is called todjal. That is for those who want to show respect for, and to purify, an implement or vessel before use. The handles of hoes and pickaxes are passed through fire before use. The milk-filled calabashes of sellers at the market are always decorated with a motif comprised of geometric designs, which give them a very traditional look. The firewood, which is used every day, carries burn marks that to me are very interesting and artistic. My technique of woodburning is not only an extension of that which is done decoratively in Africa, but I am pushing myself to take it to a deeper level and greater dimensions."

References and Related Sites of Interest

To continue your virtual tour of Senegal as seen through the eyes and art of Djibril N'Doye, visit his E-Museum Salon.

The images and captions for this segment as well as for the Djibril N'Doye E-Museum Salon were excerpted from Djibril's own website, designed and maintained by Mary Martin N'Doye: www.djibrilndoye.com. You can contact the artist by e-mail at djibril@djibrilndoye.com.

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2003, Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez, all rights reserved.