Living a dream
“I work in my studio, I work, I work and I go to the fridge, I drink, I smoke and I work, I drink, I smoke and I work, I smoke, I work…. Till 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning …”
Barkinado Bocoum is a young and very driven artist. Since his early childhood he wanted to create things and he has always dreamed about being an artist. His parents were not in favour of his dream since they were afraid their son would turn into a drug addict or alcoholic. Barkinado: “That is the image most people in Senegal have of artists. But I really wanted to live my dream and did everything I could to be accepted at the art academy in Dakar.” Barkinado grew up outside Dakar, but every holiday he went there to visit the art academy and find out about how to get accepted as a student. “Without my parents even knowing it, I passed the entrance exams and was accepted!” He moved to Dakar and worked every night in a fast-food restaurant to be able to survive and pay for his school tuition, artistic materials, rent and so on. He rented a very small room and worked day and night. “I really, really wanted to become an artist!”
A4s glued to a wall
Barkinado started to work on a small format with relatively cheap material; pastels on A4-paper, because he didn’t have the space for anything bigger and he had no money for other materials. Each time he finished one A4-paper, he glued it to another A4 and this is how his work grew bigger and bigger. He even presented it during a biennial in Dakar. “And I was extremely lucky. People were enthusiastic and loved my work. I was discovered! And that’s where it all started…”
History determines technique
Barkinado still works very hard to pursue his goals. After he won the first prize for ‘L’Afrique en question’ in 2009 and the ‘Prix de l’Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie’ at the Dak’Art 2010 Biennial, he could finally move to a larger studio and work on large-scale canvas with acrylic or oil paint. Barkinado’s technique is a result of his history. The fact that he used to work on A4s that he glued together to make one image, is still visible in his work. His mostly large-scale figurative paintings are made up of small patches creating multiple perspectives. Each patch has its own significance but altogether they become one image.
The different patches are symbolic of the idea that the ‘truth’ is made up of multiple perspectives. He explains: “Everyone has different emotions; you can be happy, angry, sad … all these emotions hide in one person. This is the same for objects. Everything has multiple perspectives. THAT is the truth. It’s not only the outside of a person that counts, that’s just one perspective. But there are elements to each of us which have not yet come out, because we have not lived through a certain situation that brings that part of us out. If you take all these elements together you get the real individual.” He looks at it just as a human body; all parts of the body are different, but each part has its own reason for being. He puts an equal amount of energy and power into every part he creates. He constructs and deconstructs to obtain the inequality of parts.
Barkinado’s critical vision on modern society and humanity can be seen in many of his works. For example in his painting ‘Pat’, he shows a cut up chess-board where world leaders and he himself are the pawns. He wants to show that everyone wants to showcase their power and wealth to give sense to their existence and it tends towards the absolute even though we all know it’s an illusion; we are all pawns in a game.
Like many other artists in Dakar, Barkinado Bocoum works at an art school to earn an income, but most of all he loves to teach the arts to the new generation. Barkinado builds his own character through iron self-discipline, a commitment he also demands from his students. “I challenge my students to work hard and develop a vision; a way to express themselves and open up to the international art world.”
Barkinado is the counsellor for his students, but also continues to develop as an artist by receiving advice from well-known Senegalese artists, like Soly Cissé. “I’m happy with the openness between artists. My colleagues encourage and criticise me, they give me strength and energy. They can push me to persevere in my development.” To summarise, Barkinado Bocoum is critical of himself and also tries to challenge his audience to reconsider their perspective of the truth.
English subtitles available, click on the cc-button in the video.