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Mor Gueye is currently dean of Dakar's many glass painters. His work is very popular with resident expatriates and tourists, and has appeared in a number of exhibitions in Africa and Europe. Gueye's specialty is painting on window glass, producing what are called sous-verres ("the ones under glass") in French. As a Wolofized loan word, suwer has been extended to refer to ornamentation or elaboration of other sorts, such as festive presentation of food. Mor Gueye is an ardent Baye Fall, and he recounts that while a young man, Amadu Bamba came to him in a dream that led to his first painting, which he and other Baye Falls carried with them as they sang zikr "songs of remembrance" while begging for alms, an activity now depicted in one of Gueye's standard paintings. Other pictures show different scenes from Mouride life; but he and the members of his studio also paint genre images of birds, young Senegalese women, and African sunsets meant to appeal to tourist tastes. Picturesque souvenirs of the sort authenticate African travels, and provide stimuli for recounting exotic adventures in far-off Senegal. But Mor Gueye considers himself an historian, and his real joy is in reproducing paintings of the defining "stations" of Bamba's life such as when Bamba prayed on the waters. These are "paintings like prayers," he says. They contain and convey baraka blessed energy, even to tourists. As Gueye explains, no one would buy a painting without asking the name of the person portrayed, and even hearing Bamba's name is a blessing. Gueye prays before painting Bamba's image, for he hopes that those seeing and purchasing his work will think of the saint, and benefit from his holy baraka.
|a. Mor Gueye in his studio, Dakar. Photo 1999. Mor Gueye is a kindly, quietly pious man. He wears the necklace and simple tunic of a Baye Fall, or follower of Sheikh Ibra Fall, the first and most ardent follower of Amadu Bamba. Despite the fact that his work has gained international celebrity, Gueye remains humble and self-effacing. Yet if one approaches him with questions about his devotions as a Mouride, he is a most eloquent narrator.|
|b. Mor Gueye in his studio, Dakar. Photo 1999. Mor Gueye's studio doubles as showroom and bedroom (although his actual home and family are elsewhere in the city). The broad range of subjects is clear in the display seen here. Some paintings refer to proverbs or are cartoon-like renditions of humorous predicaments. Scenes from "traditional" African life vie for a buyer's eye with girls in colorful garb, elephants or zebras, a scene from the famous battle of Badr in early Islamic history, Noah's ark, Muslims praying, or someone seeking medical treatment for AIDS.|
|c. Mor Gueye's son and chief apprentice in Mor Gueye's studio, Dakar. Photo 1999. Mor Gueye does not paint as often as he used to, and limits himself to images of Amadu Bamba. His son is among the apprentices who work in his studio, copying Mor Gueye's work and signing his name to the paintings they produce. While continuing the genres Mor Gueye began (or copied from his own mentors), his son sometimes traces images of his father's work from exhibition books such as Anne-Marie Bouttiaux-Ndiaye's Senegal Behind Glass (1994, Munich: Prestel). Here he inks onto the glass an image sketched on a piece of paper lying on his workbench.|
|d. A young apprentice in Mor Gueye's studio, Dakar. Photo 1999. Mor Gueye is training several apprentices who sign their work with Mor Gueye's name, and a number of others have "graduated" from his studio to paint on their own. Here a young man paints in the forms already inked onto a piece of glass. Most colors are used directly from cans, rather than being mixed into a personalized pallet, and those on the table represent the range of readily available colors in Dakar.|
|e. Painting of Amadu Bamba overseeing an Abrahamic sacrifice from the studio of Mor Gueye, Dakar. Photo 1998. Some of Mor Gueye's compositions are original, some similar to those of many other Senegalese glass painters, but Gueye's style remains recognizable. In this narrative work, Bamba teaches that animals and not humans may be sacrificed for God's pleasure. Mouride theology includes a number of moments in which Bamba's acts echo those of Old Testament heroes--in this case, Abraham.|
f. Painting of a boy learning the holy Qur'an, from the studio of Mor Gueye, Dakar. Photo 1998. Mor Gueye's work covers many Islamic subjects, as well as specifically Mouride ones. Here a boy carries a prayer board covered with sacred scripture while reams of text roil about his feet. Most Senegalese children attend Islamic schools where they learn to recite and write verses from the holy Qur'an. Prayer boards are also used in the course of healing and related adult practices associated with problem-solving. The boy also holds a bucket for lunch.