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Modern African Art : A Basic Reading List

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Senegal

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Art contemporain du Sénégal: 18 septembre-28 octobre 1990 à La Grande Arche de la Fraternité. [Paris]: ADEC, [1990]. 143pp. illus. (color). Cover title: Art sur vie. qN7399.S4A78 1990 AFA. OCLC 22881801.

Senegalese artists came to Paris in 1990 for a grand exhibition, under the auspices of high-ranking cultural committees from Senegal and France. With more than sixty artists showing around 130 works, this exhibition was a sort of massive cultural battalion waving its colors to the outside world. Nothing of this magnitude had been seen since the 1974 Paris exhibition, "Arts Sénégalais d'aujourdhui." Apart from the three pioneer artists -- Iba Ndiaye, Papa Ibra Tall, and Alpha Woualid Diallo -- the others belong to a younger generation, many associated with the Écoles des Beaux-Arts in Dakar. Some of the glass painters were also included. The catalog features sixty-one works, mainly paintings, all reproduced in color, with brief biographical information on the artists.

Exhibition reviewed by Marie-Hélène de Toffol, "Arts africains contemporains," Afrique contemporain (Paris) no. 157: 63-69, janvier-mars, 1er trimestre 1991; by Jacques Binet, "Peinture sénégalaise à l'Arche de la Fraternité," Afrique contemporain (Paris) no. 157: 70-71, janvier-mars, 1er trimestre 1991; by Françoise Balogun, "An open window," West Africa (London) no. 3844: 714, May 6-12, 1991; in Balafon (Paris) no. 94, octobre-novembre 1990, page 8.



Art contemporain du Sénégal: exposition présente au Musée du Québec du 11 mars au 12 avril 1981. Québec: Ministre des Affaires Culturelles, 1981. 61pp. illus. (pt. color), maps. qN7399.S4A78 1981 AFA. OCLC 15294199.

Two Canadian venues hosted this "official" Senegalese art exhibition. The first was held in 1979 at the Art Gallery, Hamilton, Ontario. The second was in 1981 in Québec.


Art sénégalaise d'aujourd'hui; [exhibition, Galérie Nationale du Grand Palais, Paris, 26 avril-24 juin 1974]. Paris: Éditions musée nationaux, 1974. 87pp. illus. (pt. color). N7397.S4A78 AFA. OCLC 2094269.

The success of the first big international exhibition of modern Senegalese art at the Grand Palais led to taking the show on the road. With the authority and weight of President Léopold Senghor behind this cultural enterprise, these thirty artists received a lot (some would say too much) international exposure.

A German version of this catalog was published to accompany the 1976 showing in Bonn: Kunst aus dem Senegal von heute: Ölbilder, Gouachen, Wandteppiche, Dessins u.a.: Kultur Forum der Stadt Bonn, Bonn Center, 6. bis 22. April 1976: Saarland Museum/Saarbrücken, Moderne Galerie. Bonn: Der Forum, 1976. 47pp. illus. (color). N7399.S4K96 1976 AFA. OCLC 14155107.



Arte contemporaneo del Senegal: Palacio de Bellas Artes, 24 de abril­27 de mayo de 1979, Salas Nacional, Internacional y Diego Rivera = Art contemporain du Sénégal: Palais des Beaux Arts, 24 avril­27 mai, 1979. Mexico, D.F.: [INBA/SEP: FONAPAS, 1979]. 109pp. illus. (pt. color). Text in Spanish and French. N7399.S4A786 1979 AFA. OCLC 20128504.

On 1960 President Léopold Sédar Senghor ushered in the age of enlightened (or at least generous) support of the visual arts in Senegal. The fruits of his cultural mission were shared internationally through a series of officially sponsored exhibitions of Senegalese paintings, prints, and tapestries. Many of the works shown were from the Senegalese government collection. More than forty artists were chosen to participate in this 1979 Mexico City exhibition, held under the joint patronage of Senghor and the president of Mexico José López Portillo. Biodata is included on all the artists.



Bildende Kunst der Gegenwart in Senegal = Anthologie des arts plastiques contemporains au Sénégal = Anthology of contemporary fine arts in Senegal / edited by Friedrich Axt and El Hadji Moussa Babacar Sy; introduction by Leopold Sédar Senghor. Frankfurt am Main: Museum für Völkerkunde, 1989. 278pp. illus. (pt. color), maps. Text in German, French, and English. N7399.S4B59 1989 AFA. OCLC 23216192.

This trilingual anthology of modern Senegalese art and artists is a major contribution to documenting the post-Independence period in Senegal, which has witnessed the establishment of art institutions (formal and informal) and has seen many artists rise to national and international stature.

The first half of the volume contains a series of short essays on the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts, the École Normale Supérieure d'Education Artistique, Le Musée Dynamique, La Galerie Nationale d'Art, the Manufactures sénégalaises des Arts décoratifs, the salons of Senagalese artists, exhibitions of Senegalese art at home and abroad, artists' associations, the Cité des Artistes Plasticiens and the Village des Arts, and the social and economic situation of artists of the "École de Dakar." There are also general discussions of art criticism, painting, sculpture, engraving, ceramics, batik, and the glass paintings.

The second half of the volume presents forty artists from Senegal with biographical data, one work of art of each reproduced in color, and a photograph of the artist. In an appendix, there is a listing of the forty-seven Senegalese works in the permanent collection of the Museum für Völkerkunde in Frankfurt.



Contemporary art of Senegal = Art contemporain du Sénégal; [exhibition, Art Gallery of Hamilton, August 11-September 22, 1979]. Hamilton, Ontario: The Gallery, 1979. vii, 48pp. illus. (pt. color). Text in English and French. qN7399.S4C765 AFA. OCLC 8589053.

One of the "official" exhibitions of Senegalese artists, sponsored by the Senegalese cultural establishment traveled to venues in Canada, Mexico, Venezuela and the United States. This exhibition featured paintings on glass and canvas, tapestries, and sculpture.


Contemporary art of Senegal; [exhibition, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 1980]. [s.l.: s.n., Baltimore, MD: Garamond/Pridemark Press)], 1980. 54pp. illus. (pt. color). N7399.S4C76. OCLC 6730800.

The official Senegalese exhibition traveled in the United States throughout 1980 and 1981, stopping at five venues beginning with the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington. Subsequent exhibition sites included the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, Boston, The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, and the New Orleans Museum of Art.

An updated but scaled-down version of this official Senegalese traveling art show was exhibited in 1993 at the Meridian International Center in Washington, DC, in cooperation with the National Gallery of Senegal. It featured a few of the younger generation of Senegalese artists. A small catalog was published on the occasion: Dream, myth and reality: contemporary art from Senegal (Washington, DC: Meridian International Center, 1993. 40pp. OCLC 28319141).



Diouf, Saliou Démanguy. Les arts plastiques contemporains du Senegal. Paris: Présence africaine, 1999. 238pp. illus., bibliog. (pp. 233-238). (Collection histoire de l'art). N7399.S4D55 1999X AFA. OCLC 46821952.

This socio-historical/socio-aesthetic survey of contemporary art in Senegal, written by a Senegalese artist and art historian, celebrates the artistic effervescence of post-independence Senegal under the guidance of Leopold Sédar Senghor. In the political and cultural climate of Senegal, artists flourish, even after much official support evaporated. Diouf profiles ten artists (including himself): Iba Ndiaye, Papa Ibra Tall, Abdoulaye Ndiaye Thiossane, Papa Sidy Diop, Ibou Diouf, Robert Birama Diop, Bocar Pathé Diongue, and Amadou Sow. Other Senegalese artists are also listed.


Ebong, Ima. "Negritude: between mask and flag: Senegalese cultural ideology and the École de Dakar," pp. 198-209. In: Africa explores: 20th century African art. New York: Center for African Art; Munich: Prestel-Verlag, 1991. illus. (pt. color), notes. qN7391.65.V63 1991X AFA. OCLC 22909235.

The artistic environment within which Senegalese artists were nurtured was created and guided by the benevolent but determined hand of Léopold Senghor. His philosophy of Negritude, anchored by the twin pillars of cultural identity and assimilation, became the national aesthetic in post-Independence Senegal. It was, formally at least, a smooth blend of politics and culture. For the artists of the "École de Dakar," Negritude was both empowering and limiting. Official support and sponsorship was generous, but it came at the price of artistic restraint and conformity. The search for authenticity, an African authenticity, seems in retrospect an overly self-conscious quest invoking an artificial repertoire of ethnographic symbols.

The ultimate fragility of Senghor's Negritude edifice became apparent after his departure as head of state in 1980. Official support for the arts evaporated, and artists were thrown on their own resources. Out of this experience has emerged the Laboratoire AGIT group, embracing a sort of anti-aesthetic in symbolic opposition to the state and the formalism of the École de Dakar.



Gouard, Caroline. "Dynamique de la création picturale sénégalaise contemporaine," Anthropos (Fribourg) 88 (1-3): 77-86, 1993. notes, bibliog. English abstract, page 77. GN1.A6287 ANTH; copy 2: VF -- Artists - West Africa.

The history of modern Senegalese art, thirty-odd years from its inception, may be framed as a dialectic between two impulses: the Universal and Negritude. This dynamic is exemplified in the philosophies and work of two pioneering luminaries, Iba Ndiaye and Papa Ibra Tall. Presiding above this artistic discourse, Olympian style, is Léopold Senghor, the prime mover. The evolution of this dynamic is traced through three decades, the first of which opens with the 1966 Festival of Negro Arts. The "Negritude" artists of the so-called "École de Dakar" predominated, championed by Papa Ibra Tall. They developed their own stylistic-chromatic idiom similar to the tapestry cartoons with their flat bold colors and forms. Ndiaye and company were not absent from this scene, but they were following the universal star, one less stifling than the constant search for authenticity and Mother Africa that preoccupied the Negritude artists. The Negritude repertoire of images and symbols had become a bit repetitious.

The next decade (1975-1985) was one of transition, as the pendulum swung back toward the Ndiaye philosophy of the artist's need for interior explorations and individual (not collective) expression, the universal quest. The result was ambivalent, a hesitant move toward abstraction, but one which stopped short in a stylistic middle ground of "figurative abstraction."

By the mid-1980s, Senegalese artists began to regroup and reconsider their position vis-a-vis the State and, more importantly, their audience. Official support was dwindling, and artists realized they would have to look to themselves for encouragement. Several artists' associations formed, the latest (in 1991) being the Coordination Nationale des Artistes Plasticiens du Sénégal (CNAPS), a merger of two earlier associations. Artists now concentrated their energies on cultivating new audiences both locally and internationally, no easy task on either front.



Grabski, Joanna. The historical invention and contemporary practice of modern Senegalese art: three generations of artists in Dakar. PhD dissertation, Indiana University, 2001. Ann Arbor: UMI Dissertation Services, 2001. xviii, 277 leaves. illus., bibliog. (pp. 260-277). N7399.S4G73 2001a AFA. OCLC 47091618.

The three generations of Senegalese artists that are the focus of this dissertation span the four decades since Independence, from 1960 to 2000. The first are the Negritude artists who benefitted directly from President Senghor’s generous support of the arts. Its exemplars are Papa Ibra Tall, Ibou Diouf, and Alpha Wallid Diallo, and latterly, Cherif Thiam. The second generation of artists broke away from the Ecole de Dakar, which had become staid, repetitive and formulaic. These artists of the Village des Arts includes El Hadji Sy, Fode Camara, Moussa Tine, Babacar Traore, Djibril André Diop, Serigne Ndiaye and Germaine Anta Gaye.

The artists of the 1990s were absorbed with recuperation and graffiti-canvases in a more populist spirit. There was also a move to more three-dimensional works. Soly Cissé, Birame Ndiaye, Cheikh Ndiaye, Ndary Lo, Jean-Marie Bruce, and Hassane Sar and the most representative of this generation. Finally, and interestingly, the changing landscape of collecting and exhibiting of contemporary Senegalese art in Dakar reveals a shift away from sole reliance on expatriate patrons and toward Senegalese collectors and international overseas collectors. Ousmane Sow, Moustapha Dimé, and Viyé Diba have successfully made this transition.



Harney, Elizabeth. In Senghor’s shadow: art, politics, and the avant-garde in Senegal, 1960-1995. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004. xxv, 316pp. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. (pp. 289-311). N7399.S4H37 2004 AFA. OCLC 55008299.

In Senghor’s shadow is the published version of Harney’s doctoral dissertation, A legacy of Negritude: a history of visual arts in post-independence Senegal (1996). (See next entry). Although reworked, the content is essentially the same. Among the organizations and artists singled out for discussion are the Ecole de Dakar, Iba N’Diaye, Papa Ibra Tall, Laboratoire Agit-Art, Issa Samb, El Hadji, Village des Arts, Moustapha Dimé, glass underpainting, Viyé Diba, Kan-Si, Cheikh Niass, and Set Setal. Harney concludes her treatise with a discussion of Senegalese art and artists in the global marketplace.

Reviewed by Michelle Huntingford Craig, "Senegalese modernisms," Art journal (New York) 65 (4) winter 2006, pages 119-121.



Harney, Elizabeth. A legacy of Negritude: a history of visual arts in post-independence Senegal. PhD dissertation, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1996. 2 volumes (357pp). illus., bibliog. (pp. 237-246). N7399.S4H37 1996a AFA. OCLC 45040374.

This dissertation considers the relationship between cultural nationalism and aesthetics in post-Independence Senegal and the controversy surrounding the interpretation, reception, and display of so-called contemporary African arts. Senegal was unique amongst African states because its first president, the poet and philosopher, Léopold Sédar Senghor instituted a well-funded arts patronage. Senghor was one of the prime advocates of the philosophy of Negritude, which had its roots in inter-war Paris where he and fellow students from the French colonies in Africa and the Caribbean gathered to discuss issues of racism, colonialism and cultural identity.

For Senghor, Negritude became not only a personal belief but also a foundation upon which to build a national aesthetic. He encouraged the use of motifs that were designated as "traditional" and pan-African, but which were inevitably executed through European Modernist practices. Twenty-five to thirty percent of the state budget was devoted to the arts of his new nation, creating schools, galleries, museums, and theaters and sponsoring large, international traveling exhibitions. The further he extended this patronage, the more the works of these artists became associated with an official canon, known as the Ecole de Dakar. In spite of the complex origins of Negritude as a philosophy, its adherents often used stereotyped motifs of Africa, such as masks and drums, revealing its limitations as a model from which to build the new aesthetic. The formal cohesiveness of this school was also questionable, as its characteristics have been attributed to a variety of sources. And yet its legacy in the Senegalese cultural milieu remains a dominant reference for artists. The Ecole de Dakar is emblematic of a generous system of government patronage and accompanying rhetoric of officialdom as well as a particular notion of expressing one's Africanness, which led inevitably to the stifling of artistic creativity.

In the mid-1970s, artists began to challenge the pervasiveness of this ideology and its monopoly on state patronage by creating informal groups such as the Village des Arts and the Laboratoire Agit-Art. New working methods were introduced which sought to free artists, artworks, and audiences from the shackles of the Ecole de Dakar. Artists no longer limited their works to oil paintings and tapestries, the two media most favored by the state. Instead they began to draw upon local traditions of glass painting, engage in sculptural activities hitherto hindered by caste-related taboos, and work with both indigenous and imported materials.

Senghor retired in 1980 and thereafter government patronage declined, leading to significant changes in the art academies that had provided the institutional basis for Negritude. Those now teaching and studying at these schools may continue to address issues of identity in their works, but they do so without the predetermined agenda of their predecessors. - - author's abstract.



Kennedy, Jean. "Artists of the image and loom: Senegal," pp. 97-107. In: New currents, ancient rivers: contemporary African artists in a generation of change. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992. illus., bibl. refs. (pp. 189-190). N7391.65.K46 1992X AFA. OCLC 22389510.

Modern Senegalese art has been influenced by the Negritude movement, but it is not overtly political. In fact, much of the painting is highly decorative and colorful, distinctive in style. The Senegalese tapestries from Thiès share this colorful ornamental style. One of the best-known tapestry artists and painters is Papa Ibra Tall (1935- ), but a host of others followed this tradition. The Manufactures National des Tapisseries at Thiès, modeled after the French tapestry at Aubusson, received much official government support, as did the artists associated with it. Equally important in cultivating artistic talent was the École des Beaux-Arts in Dakar. Kennedy's story closes on the high tide, before government support for the arts in Senegal all but dried up in the 1980s and 1990s.


Manufactures sénégalaise des arts décoratifs. Dakar: Les nouvelles éditions africaines, 1977. 93pp. chiefly illus. (color). Text in French and English. NK3089.6.S4M36 1977 AFA. OCLC 36830253.

This little catalog is very much a Senghorian project - - pairing color illustrations of Senegalese tapestries with a quotation from Senghor’s poetry. An ode to Mother Africa and universal civilization.



Niane, J. C., Vieux Savané and B. Boris Diop. Set Setal: la seconde génération des barricades. Dakar: Sud éditions, 1991. [not available for review; but see below: Set Setal: des murs qui parlent: nouvelle culture urbaine à Dakar].



Oledzki, Jacek. "L'art non-officiel au Sénégal," Etnologia polona (Warsaw) 7: 81-97, 1981. illus. (twenty-four unnumbered plates between pages 96 and 97). Abstract in English, page 81. GN1.E47X AFA. OCLC 03066758.

"Non-official" arts, in contrast to official arts, are those created by self-taught artists for popular consumption. They are not subjugated to aesthetic or political principles, as are the "beaux-arts" propagated by the establishment. The non-official arts utilize more varied materials and techniques than the official arts, and they tend to be realistic rather than abstract in style.

These popular arts take several forms, of which one of the most common are the painted signs incorporating proverbs or sayings. Barbershop signs depicting the current repertoire of hairstyles are another genre of urban arts. In Senegal, one of the best-known popular genres is glass painting, which can be didactic, celebratory, or amusing. Islamic and folkloric heroes and themes are common. Less well known are cement sculptures inspired by Christianity found among the Catholic Serere. Collectively, these expressions of popular culture may be characterized as spontaneous, authentic manifestations of self-affirmation.



Sénégal contemporain / [curated by Christiane Falgayrettes-Leveau]. Paris: Musée Dapper, 2006. 115pp. illus. (color). N7380.5.S46 2006 AFA. OCLC 69494831

In honor of the centenary of Léopold Sédar Senghor and the 40th anniversary of the World Festival of Negro Arts (1966), the Musée Dapper mounted this exhibition of contemporary Senegalese art in April-July 2006. Eleven artists are featured, including work of the late Moustapha Dimé (1952-1998). Christiane Falgarettes-Leveau and Sylvain Sankalé introduce contemporary Senegalese art in their separate essays. The participating artists profiled in the catalog are: Cheikhou Bâ, Moustapha Dimé, Amadou Camara Guèye, Soly Cissé, Cheikh Diouf, Gabriel Kenzo Malou, Ndary Lo, Serigne Mbaye Camara, Mohamadou Ndoye (Douts), Ibrahima Niang (Piniang), and Henry Sagna.



Set Setal: des murs qui parlent: nouvelle culture urbaine à Dakar. Dakar: Enda, 1991. 117pp. illus. (color). (Études et recherches, 143). DT549.9.D34S49 1991 AFA. OCLC 25703165.

Set Setal is not so much an art movement as an urban phenomenon -- young self-taught painters reclaiming and beautifying their neighborhoods of Dakar. Their "canvases" are cement walls and pavements; their themes range from historic and religious figures, mythology, traditional life, and animals to politics, sports, and public health. In short, they are didactic, moralizing, celebratory or whimsical. Some of the more recent creations are three-dimensional -- obelisks and other small monuments -- assembled and painted as colorfully as the murals. Set Setal is not entirely an independent, spontaneous phenomenon, even though it has gained its own momentum. Initially, it was a means of mobilizing youth, of redirecting the energies of young urbanites into creative channels and instilling in them a pride of place.

See also Jacques Bugnicourt, "Soudain, les murs de Dakar fleurirent sous les fresques," Le monde diplomatique (Paris) avril 1991, page 28. VF -- Art, Senegal.



Snipe, Tracy David. Art and politics in Senegal, 1960-1996. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1998. xiv, 174pp. illus., bibliog. (pp. 143-169). NX750.S38S56 1998X AFA. OCLC 37843862.

Cultural politics in Senegal have been shaped and engineered by two heads of state -- Léopold Sedar Senghor and Abdou Diouf -- the only two presidents since independence. The differences between the two regimes are dramatic. Senghor, the intellectual, poet, francophile, and patriarch, promulgated his Negritude philosophy and embraced artists. He viewed culture and artistic production as essential to nation-building and the greater gloire of Sénégal. The pinnacle of the Senghor era was perhaps the 1966 World Festival of Negro Arts.

Diouf is a different type of politician and certainly no francophile. He has presided over a shrinking economy, structural adjustment, and rising ethnicity. In this climate of crisis, artists and cultural institutions were the first to be cut loose, as official support dried up, though lip services to the arts continued. Snipe's study compares and contrasts the place of arts and artists within the politics of Sénégal during the Senghor and Diouf regimes and against the backdrops of French colonialism and assimilation policies and Islam. Questions of artistic freedom and censorship are also discussed. The arts in this study include not only visual arts, but also music, cinema, theater and literature.



Sy, El Hadji, 1954- "Objects of performance," pp. 76-101. In: Seven stories about modern art in Africa / organized by the Whitechapel Art Gallery; concept and general editor, Clémentine Deliss. Paris; New York: Flammarion, 1995. illus. (pt. color). N7380.5.S49 1995 AFA. OCLC 33663281.

Includes discussion of modern art and artists in Senegal since Independence, including El Hadji Sy, 1954-; Issa Samb, 1945- ; Souleymane Keïta, 1945- ; Sét Sétal; and Laboratoire Agit-Art.

"African people are spontaneously artists," according to El Hadji Sy, artist and curator of the Senegalese section of "Seven Stories about Modern Art in Africa." The creative act, the performance itself, is as important as, if not more important than the object created. Certainly this is the philosophy of the Laboratoire Agit-Art, two of whose practitioners dominated the "Seven Stories" exhibition: El Hadji Sy and Issa Samb. Souleyman Keita, the third artist represented, seems overshadowed.

In the essay, Sy gives a thumbnail sketch of the development of modern art in Senegal, which was built on Senghor's philosophy of Negritude and his concept of Ecole de Dakar. Pierre Lods, Papa Ibra Tall, Iba Ndiaye and the movement Sét Sétal appear only in passing in this sketch.



Sylla, Abdou. Arts plastiques et état: trente-cinq ans de mécénat au Sénégal. Dakar: IFAN-CH. A. Diop, Université CH. A. Diop de Dakar, 1998. 167pp. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. (pp. 163-167). NX750.S38S95 1998 AFA. OCLC 42736829.

Senghor’s vision and cultural policy for Senegal was in a class by itself compared to other African countries. Neither before nor since has three been such elaborate state apparatus and government funding for the arts. Abdou Sylla’s treatise lays out this comprehensive ambitious cultural program and its institutional and administrative structure. In addition to visual arts, Senghor’s plan embraced music, theater, dance, architecture, and research and documentation in the humanities. The apogee of course was the World Festival on Negro Arts in 1966. After Senghor, such official munificence evaporated and artists were left to their own devices. In chapter 5, Sylla provides an environmental scan of the visual arts community of the late 1980s and early 1990s: predominantly painters, predominantly, male. Out of the fading glory of Senghor’s vision, however, emerged the Biennale des Arts de Dakar (Dak’Art).



Trajectoires: art contemporain du Sénégal: collection Bassam Chaïtou: exposition Musée de l’IFAN de Dakar, janvier 2007. Dakar: Éds. Kaani: Bassam Chaïtou, 2007. 220pp. illus. (color). N7399.S4T73 2007 AFA. OCLC 153383212.

Senegal does have serious collectors of art, and Bassam Chaïtou is right at the top of the list. Remarkably, he began collecting as recently a 1998, but in a decade has amassed an impressively broad and deep representation of 40 years of Senegalese art. Selections from his collection were exhibited at the Musée d’Institut fundamental de l’Afrique noire, in Dakar. Many of the big names are present -- Iba Ndiaye, Mor Faye, Souleymane Keita, El Hadj Sy, Fodé Camara, Ndary Lo - - but also a host of less well known but talented artists. Well illustrated and finely produced, this catalog only lacks any real text to give history and context to this body of work.

Exhibition reviewed by Joanna Grabski in African arts (Los Angeles) 41 (1) spring 2008, pages 88-91.