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Yelimane Fall is an artist and community activist living in Pikine, a town just inland from Dakar. He completed schooling and began what looked to be a brilliant career in furniture and related design, but then as he tells it, he was not able to put his success in proper perspective, and he lost himself in drinking and other excesses. As his world crumbled, he had a revelation that he should devote himself to study of the teachings of Amadu Bamba, and through a close relationship with his marabout spiritual leader, his life has taken a distinctly different path. Now he creates portable poster-like paintings that he calls "stations of the soul" (étapes de l'âme) to illustrate inspirational lectures to young people of Pikine, and especially to those at risk of the sort of self-destructive behavior of his own former life. His work shows inventive development of the graphic arts skills he acquired as a student, and he asserts that his paintings have active ability to assist those in need. An example is his recent series of twelve triangular canvases that both depict and convey the healing qualities of each sign of the zodiac. Fall also works in a community center that has received funding from a Belgian nongovernmental organization, where he teaches children to paint, to make soap from local materials, and to discover other outlets for their abilities through the thriving informal economy of Senegal.
|a. Yelimane Fall, a community activitist in Pikine, Senegal. Photo 1999. Yelimane Fall is both witty and assertive in his teachings of self-reliance based upon the theology of Amadu Bamba.|
|b. Studio and residence of Yelimane Fall in Pikine. Photo 1999. Yelimane Fall's paintings combine narrative imagery with calligraphy, and their masterful composition reveals the talent of a man whose graphic arts training has been directed to spiritual messages for young people caught up in the ennui of joblessness. His sense of geometry is reflected in many paintings, as can be seen in several stacked together in the corner of his livingroom. Glimpsed here too is the image of a skeleton finding release from a cage, in a narrative concerning the gravity of one's deeds in life. In the upper right one can see a portion of a painting of a person standing as the trunk of a tree, covered by a long message about the evils of drug abuse. A kora harp stands ready to play in the corner of the room.|
|c. Detail of a painting by Yelimane Fall in his Pikine residence. Photo 1999. This detail of a painting partially visible in the previous photograph shows how Yelimane Fall has attached used syringes to the canvas, as evidence of drug abuse in his neighborhood. Such works illustrate his inspiring lectures, as Fall seeks to redirect young people to the philosophy of dignity and self-reliance of Amadu Bamba.|
|d. A place of worship decorated by Yelimane Fall in Pikine. Photo 1997. Yelimane Fall has applied his considerable graphic skills in decorating the interior of the place of worship he shares with followers of his marabout or spiritual leader. The walls of the carefully swept inner courtyard are graced with images of Amadu Bamba from the 1913 photograph, an orientalist mosque, and geometric designs suggesting arches. The upper reaches of the building are also painted, and here one sees Bamba praying on the waters, as dolphins come to receive the saint's blessing. The open-work bricks at the top of the wall suggest the form of a mosque.|
e. A place of worship decorated by Yelimane Fall in Pikine. Photo 1997. This further detail of Yelimane Fall's painting shows the trompe l'oeil work at which he excels. The ornately painted doorway is in a hallway leading from the inner courtyard to the street. The names of God are written at the top of the wall. A woman has placed a mattress in this shady spot, to nap with her infants.