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Viy Diba is a respected professor at the National School of Fine Arts in Dakar, and an internationally acclaimed artist whose work has been seen in many exhibitions, galleries, and museum collections in Africa, Europe, and the United States. Diba is deeply interested in the media with which he works. He takes locally woven strips of cloth ordinarily used for shrouds, and sews them together as his canvases. He mixes paints with sand and other local substances to add color and texture. He begins with or adds recycled materials to works that fuse painting with sculpture. As he explains, he wishes to "aggress" the media he uses, to stretch and stress them to see what they can endure, and what their endurance can then convey. He is a very convivial, sincere, and generous person; through his teaching and professional arts activities, he has become a force in local and regional cultural organizations and activities. In particular, his living room and his inner courtyard are salons where local and visiting artists congregate to discuss the nature of art, the spiritual values of creativity, and gossip of the hour.

a. Collage by Viy Diba, Dakar. Photo 1999. Diba's collages begin with paintings on cloth mounted on wooden frames. Their somber red-browns, sometimes accented by yellow, and their sand-textured surfaces may deceive viewers with a false impression of lack of depth. On the contrary, Diba is a conceptual artist who plays with every assumption one can bring to painting. The frame: why accept its limits? Diba defies boundaries, breaking edges and suggesting unseen continuities. Gravity? This work has an attachment at the top that looks like it ought to hang down, and when it does not, it challenges one's sense of direction. The black split-legged figure is Diba's signature, here adrift but positioned above a pocket containing whoknowswhatanother Diba device that suggests fertile secrets.
b. Two of a six-part collage by Viy Diba, Dakar. Photo 1999. These interlocked canvases were two of six prepared for the Johannesburg Biennale of 1998. Their darkly mottled hues respond to the troubled history of South Africa. The paintings are linked, tied together in a dialectic of need and a bonding of purpose.
c. Detail of a collage by Viy Diba, Dakar. Photo 1999. Diba's paintings are "robes" with pockets attached. These are stuffed with secret materials, and sometimes left open, sometimes sewn shut. They suggest the sorts of hidden knowledge dear to Sufis, who spend their lives seeking to traverse the veils of ignorance. Yet as this detail shows, learning is bound by the realities of life as it is lived, as a person is pulled and knotted and thwarted.

d. Detail of a collage by Viy Diba, Dakar. Photo 1999. Many of Diba's works have a binding at the bottom as shown here, that suggests an anchoring to the earth. The knotting gathers the painting together, drawing it downward as though it had weightthe key term, according to Diba. Yet the heaviness of life is matched by Diba's Mouride faith that provides him with a determined sense of place and purpose.

e. Collage by Viy Diba, Dakar. Photo 1999. Diba's paintings verge on sculpture, and his sculptures merge with paintings. Here strips of hand-woven cloth ordinarily used for shrouds are applied to three boards that Diba has found. Two split-legged figures are gouged into the boards, one facing up, the other down. Another wooden piece is suspended to the left, as a weight drawing the object to earth. The rude qualities of the materials are exaggerated in Diba's hands, as he pushes them to their limits.

 
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