7 September 2012

Gambia: The Creative Genius of Momodou Ceesay - - the Renown Gambian Painter

Momodou Ceesay demonstrated extraordinary artistic talent in his early years, painting in a realistic manner through his childhood and adolescence. His style changed as he experimented with different theories, techniques, and ideas.

His revolutionary artistic accomplishments brought him universal renown thus making him one of the best-known figures in African Art. For me, the artist has an undying love for humanity and may therefore be resolved to lend his or her voice to fight against injustice, to seek the truth where others are afraid to, and to serve as a beacon light for justice and equality.

Momodou Ceesay is a fine artist and writer. He was born in 1945 in Banjul, the capital of The Gambia, in West Africa. His early education was received in Banjul, followed by scholarships and academic studies at Suffield Academy and Wesleyan University, Connecticut (USA). He continued his studies in France at the University of Poitiers, Tours and La Sorbonne, Paris. .

After graduation, Ceesay decided to pursue his true passion and he became an artist. Essentially self-taught, he focused on a highly individualist vision, seen in the uniqueness of his style and use of colours. This trend is seen in his numerous acrylics, watercolors, and serigraphs. In his printmaking, Momodou shuns modern technology, producing small editions by hand, without the aid of a mechanized studio. One of his earlier serigraphs entitled "Evening Works" was selected by UNICEF as one of their designs. His original works can be found in many public and private collections across the country and abroad.

"My work . . . seeks to articulate that universal yearning for truth, justice, and equality, common to all peoples and all cultures. I have tried in my own experience to use art in a way that would go beyond just aesthetic concerns. And my objective is to take the viewer on a spiritual odyssey that suggests unseen dimensions. A world parallel to a true flight of imagination and belief; and where I quietly listen to the rushing breeze, to give an ear to those who came before me, and whose voices I see and hear, as they beseech me to speak for them." - Momodou Ceesay said of himself and his job.

As an African artist, his work reflects the richness of his culture; it seeks to articulate that universal yearning for truth, justice, and equality, common to all peoples and all cultures. In so doing, Momodou tries to add his share to the school of art that believes the intrinsic value of art is not based on concerns of color, style, movement, or abstract deconstructionism alone, but in its contribution to the uplifting of the human spirit. He quietly listen to the rushing breeze to give an ear to those who came before him, to those whose voices hesee and hear, as they beseech him to speak for them.

" I ask you how can I, as I lean to grasp that brush and approach my canvas, ignore the misery around me, the oppression, and the cries for freedom? The plea for redemption is everywhere on the African continent. Nor can the cries coming from the ghettos of America be ignored", Momodou once stated. His art therefore is not only to display the beauty of our environment, of our culture, but to also reflect on the deep chaos, confusion and the search for meaning in contemporary human existence.

Here is an artist who is painting about the troubles of Africa. An artist that feels the plight of the many sides of Africa and although others, see the continent as progressive and striving out of hardship, the reality is that war still plays a huge role in the displacement of this continent. The struggle to own the continent's riches is still at the root of the troubles of Africa. The distribution of wealth worldwide needs to be reassessed.

These images would look fantastic as revolutionary murals or stain glass windows. The simplicity of his message points the finger in all directions and the future will only change if the world would allow Africa and the Africans to reap what they sow. He wrote a book titled "On My Knees Before These Mighty Heavens" and here's what I dug up about it via his official website.

"The work uses excerpts from Hebrew Scripture and the Koran to describe the searching of a better life for African and African American people to the virtual reality of the story line by delineating the poem with 36 of his original paintings. The protagonist, Issa Kujabi, in righteous indignation, seeks an audience with God, in order to lament the condition of his people. The book speaks of social injustice, the cold-heartedness of the ruling elite in Africa; the phenomena of Africa's current demise, all done with poetry and art." His objective is to take the viewer on a spiritual odyssey that suggests unseen dimensions; a world parallel to a true flight of imagination and belief.

As with some gifted artists, Momodou expands his talents in many directions; in textile design, and children's book illustrations. In the United States, his design work has been featured on gift items published by the Heritage Collection, New York. His original works can be found in many public and private collections across the country and abroad. Johnson Publications, DuPont, National Museum of History/Taiwan, Canterbury Museum/New Zealand, AT&T/New York, Studio Museum in Harlem/New York, Citibank/New York, and the Chase Manhattan Bank, are among the collectors of his work.

Solo Exhibitions

*Goethe Institute, Lagos, Nigeria

*La Gruta Galeria, Bogota, Colombia

*National Museum of History, Teipei, Taiwan

*Theatre National Sorano, Dakar, Senegal

*University of Massachusetts Library, Boston

*Galerija Likovnih Samorastnikov, Trebnje, Slovenia

*Ile-lfe Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Group Exhibitions (selected)

*Gallery of Art, Howard University, Washington, D.C

*Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand

*Studio Museum in Harlem, New York

*ISC Art Gallery, U.C.L A., Los Angeles, California

*International Biennial of Color Graphics, Switzerland

*Museum of African American Art, Los Angeles, California

*Golden State Mutual Insurance Company, Los Angeles

*National Center for Afro-American Artists, Boston,

*Africa-NOW, IMF-World Bank, Washington, DC

Private, Corporate and Museum Collections

*President's Office, Banjul, The Gambia

*Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow, former Director General, UNESCO, Paris, France

*The New York Hospital, New York, New York

*The Chase Manhattan Bank, New York, New York

*First National Bank of Chicago, Chicago, lilinois

*Golden State Mutual Life insurance Company, Los Angeles, California

*Banco de la República, Bogota, Colombia

*Dallas Public Library, Dallas, Texas

*National Museum of History, Teipei, Taiwan

*National Center of Afro-American Artists, c/o Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

*National Library, Banjul, The Gambia

*Museum of African American Art, Los Angeles, California

*Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand

*Ghana Arts Council, Accra, Ghana.

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