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Cheikh Ndiaye, the jack-of-all-trades who immortalizes the disappeared African cinemas

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Cheikh Ndiaye, the jack-of-all-trades who immortalizes the disappeared African cinemas

” Paris “. This was the name of the Dakar cinema with the pink seventies sign where the artist Cheikh Ndiaye, 51, used to see French and American films. Like so many other theaters in Africa, it was demolished twenty years ago. “Today, all that remains is an empty lot at the corner of Place de l’Indépendance and the Pullman Hotel”, laments the Senegalese artist, who immortalized him.

This painting, bought Wednesday October 20 by the Senegalese collector Bassam Chaitou, is exhibited with four other paintings on the stand of the Cécile Fakhoury gallery at the International Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC), in Paris, until Sunday October 24. A hanging which is accompanied by the publication of a monograph, Sun Archives, published by Suture. The crowning achievement of a rich and low-noise career, the book is all the more precious as it underlines the coherence of this talented jack-of-all-trades, exhibited at the Venice, Havana or Dakar Biennials, but also screened at film festivals.

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Because Cheikh Ndiaye is a painter one day, the next documentary filmmaker. Thus he paid tribute to the Mauritanian singer Malouma, respected both for her music and for her political positions. The artist has also imagined installations, such as Sunbreaker of independence, composed of former headlines of the Senegalese daily The sun, dealing in filigree with the disappointed hopes of independence. “We cannot stop at a medium, he said. I want to create by all possible means, it is a matter of urgency. “

“Objects witnesses of an era”

At the Beaux-Arts in Dakar, he was taught recycling, the art of making from found objects. At the Beaux-Arts in Lyon, he discovered comparative literature, Western philosophy and the words to articulate his thought. Despite his taste for documentaries, Cheikh Ndiaye was wary of photography, preferring a more ancestral medium. “Before, the photo marked the break in the flow, now it has become the flow, he explains. In front of a painting, we invest in the long term and we subscribe to a lineage. “

Irreducible to a practice, Cheikh Ndiaye can no longer be assigned to a country. He has spent the last eight months of the pandemic at the Cité internationale des arts in Montmartre. Previously, he lived alternately between Dakar, New York, Lyon and Prague. So many anchor points and points of view that give it the right distance in front of things. And do not go to stick the label of “afropolitan” to him! “I am wary of anything that begins with afro : afroptimist, afropessimist, anything that essentializes, he confides. I have the impression that things are frozen while Africa is complex and in motion. “

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The continent is changing at such a pace that each time he returns to Dakar, Cheikh Ndiaye is confused by the change: “It’s dizzying, all the schools I went through have been razed. We have the impression that we are erasing the traces behind you. “ Hence this need for archiving, crystallized for ten years in a series of quasi-photographic paintings listing old dilapidated cinemas in Africa. “I looked for the witness objects of an era and the cinemas appeared to me as the places to list, because it was the place where we went to learn about the state of the world”, details the artist, who says he had his first “Artistic experience” in front of a Bruce Lee film.

Cheikh Ndiaye, the jack-of-all-trades who immortalizes the disappeared African cinemas

Places of entertainment and debate, the cinemas bear both the imprint of the colonial buildings that housed them and the unfulfilled dreams of modernity. Gradually, “The cult has replaced the cultural, notes Cheikh Ndiaye. As soon as the cinemas that crisscrossed the city became obsolete, they were replaced by churches and mosques. “ The El Mansour cinema has turned into a supermarket. Still others have been recaptured by informal petty trading.

“Culture is made to contaminate”

In his paintings which depict cities, human beings are often absent or relegated to the background. Cheikh Ndiaye is wary of “Fetishization” black body as it is currently practiced by many young African and African-American artists. “I prefer the question of presence to that of representation”, he explains. Rather than the affirmation of the body, it is man in the city that interests him, his habitats and his habitus, as well as the possibilities of the common.

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Cheikh Ndiaye is just as careful of the fight against “cultural appropriation”, this phenomenon which consists in accusing white artists of taking advantage of the art and culture of non-Western populations. “I don’t want to be locked up, nor taken back by anything, he sweeps. Culture is made to contaminate, otherwise we fall into essentialism. “ And to believe that today, Africans should not only claim, but invent. “Our leaders should finally have a plan!” “

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