Modern African Art : A Basic Reading List

Western Africa : Senegal -- Glass Painting


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Bouttiaux, Anne-Marie. Senegal behind glass: images of religious and daily life; [exhibition, organized by the Musée royal de l'Afrique Centrale, Tervuren]. Munich; New York: Prestel, in association with the Royal Museum of Central Africa, 1994. 167pp. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. (Musée royal de l'Afrique Centrale. Annales. Sciences humaines, 143). NK5435.S38B78 E1994 AFA. OCLC 31144291.

Reverse-glass painting in Senegal flourishes today as a commercial, tourist art, but this was not always so. For several decades before the 1960s, it was primarily a local art for local consumption. There has been a parallel shift away from the earlier concentration on Islamic religious themes to more secular contemporary concerns: social commentary, portraits, domestic scenes, musicians, wrestlers, and even Mammy Wata.

Bouttiaux has assembled the most comprehensive catalog to date of this painting genre -- 150 color plates -- and provides a thorough discussion of the history, techniques, themes, and style of Senegalese painting. Equally significant, she documents several of the leading artists: Gora Mbengue, Mor Gueye, Babacar Lo, Ibrahima Sall, Magatte Ndiaye, Mbida [Birahim Fall], Alexis Ngom, Mallos [Maleyni Sow], Azu Bade [Amadu Seck], Paco Diagne, Metzo [Ahmad Diagne], Moussa Lo, and Cheikh Mdao. Several of the younger glass painters affiliated with the museum workshop at Thiès are also included: Arona Diarra, Moussa Johnson, Jules [Souleymane Dione], Gabou [Gabriel Balacoune], and Khaly [Papa Khaly Diop].

Peintures populaires du Sénégal "souweres"; [exhibition] 20 mai-14 septembre 1987, Musée National des Arts Africains et Océaniens, Paris. Paris: Musée National des Arts Africains et Océaniens, 1987. 47pp. illus. (color). NK5431.5.P2P37 1987 AFA. OCLC 17220059.

Senegalese glass paintings or souweres (a Wolof corruption of "sous-verre") were derived from Tunisia in the early part of the twentieth century. Their themes, like the Tunisian prototypes, are largely Islamic; al Burak is especially popular. Today purely Senegalese images are also common -- scenes from colonial history, griots, proverbs illustrated, and portraits. Gora M'Bengue is one of the most well known of the Senegalese glass painters.

Reviewed by Willy Alante-Lima, "A propos d'une exposition 'Les Souweres sénégalais'," Presence africaine (Paris) 144: 150-152, 1987.

Renaudeau, Michel and Michèle Strobel. Peinture sous verre du Sénégal. Paris: Nathan; Dakar: Nouvelles éditions africaines, 1984. 107, [2]pp. illus. (color), bibliog. NK5389.6.S4R39 1984 AFA. OCLC 02483365.

The history and flowering of Senegalese glass painting is served up here in a palatable and appetizing spread: pleasing to the eye, smooth going down, not too heavy, just right. Renaudeau, known for his succession of photographic books, does justice with his camera trained on the glass paintings; his photographs bring out all the vivid flat colors and black outlines characteristic of the genre. Its North African origins, its subversive hagiography of Islamic marabous of the outlawed brotherhoods, its fidelity to Senegalese folklore and foibles, its fondness for portraiture -- all this and more are captured here in image and text.

Sénégal: peintures narratives = narrative paintings: the collection of Maurice Dedieu. Lafayette: University Art Museum, University of Southwestern Louisiana, 1986. 74pp. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. Text in English and French. ND1099.S4S4 1986 AFA. OCLC 16070105.

Attractive exhibition catalog of the increasingly popular Senegalese glass paintings with essays by Carl Brasseaux on the Senegambian-Louisiana connection and another by Maurice Dedieu, whose personal collection was exhibited. In this essay, "Africa under glass: colored imagery of Senegalese 'souweres'," [and] "From the sacred to the profane," pp. 61-73, Dedieu recounts his personal discovery of Senegalese glass paintings, which occurred casually while in Dakar. But soon it became a true collecting passion. He relives that moment of encounter, then discusses the artists' techniques and the history and spread of the genre.

He classifies the main themes depicted in the Senegalese glass paintings as religious (Koranic, marabout brotherhoods, mystical) and secular (historical figures, buffoons, moralistic, everyday life). Dedieu regards glass paintings as an ephemeral genre because of the fragility of the media and the impermanence of the paints. Patronage has shifted from an indigneous one to a touristic one. He laments the absence of glass paintings in museums in Dakar and elsewhere.

Treasures of a popular art: paintings on glass from Senegal; exhibition held at the African-American Institute, New York, March 27-August 15, 1986 / text by Marie-Thérèse Brincard, Maurice Dedieu and Thomas Shaw. New York: African-American Institute, 1986. portfolio, illus., map, bibliog. NK5435.S38T74 1986X AFA. OCLC 16709592.

Senegalese glass paintings, whether sacred or profane, are narrative and decorative, depicting aspects of the Koran, Islamic brotherhoods, marabouts, historical events, legends or domestic life. Thomas Shaw's essay traces one dominant theme in these glass paintings, that of Sheikh Amadou Bamba, founder of the Islamic brotherhood Mourides. In Senegal, the tradition of painting on glass dates to the late nineteenth century, although surviving examples from the early years are virtually unknown due to the fragility of the medium.

The exhibition of glass paintings from the collection of Maurice Dedieu featured 110 works from the 1920s to the 1970s, only twenty-one of which are illustrated in this catalog. Dating is difficult because until recently the paintings were unsigned and undated; some evidence for dating, however, can be gleaned from the frames and the paints or from iconographic analysis. Today the tradition flourishes as a tourist art, mainly in Dakar and Rufisque.