August 30, 2017

Artist in residency: leather-working techniques

Organised by Zeinart, the art gallery I run, Cecile Ndiaye artist and designer at Mis Wude ( based in dakar, Senegal) arrived at the end of July in Mauritania to meet local craftswoman, Fatimetou Abiyade and spend time sharing different leather-working techniques and materials.

We travelled by minibus to Atar in the region of Adrar and we stayed with Fatimetou and her family.
I had warned Cecile that the month of July and August are extremely hot in this area and we had temperatures over 40º all the time. This heat allows the dates (palm trees) to ripe and this is the special season of the Guetna when Mauritaniens come back to their villages to do a cure of fresh dates - its also time of encounters and weddings.

exemples of the work of Fatimetou's mother - leather carving using a sharp blade or knife

In Mauritania the leather work is a women's art and the knowledge its passed from mother to daughter. Leather tanning is also a feminine activity in Mauritania but done by another groupe of women.
Fatimetou learned with her mother Meneiya mint el Khata from Chinguetti but has no daughters to transmit her knowledge.

leather mouse key holders
Fatimetou took further her learning, she is curious and not afraid of trying new things doing exceptionnel work of a rare quality and sometimes amusing.
Boxes, traditional game boards (games that are usually played in the sand), pocket mirrors and the latest, a small mouse that can be used as a key holder. All the pieces are made from goats  leather having a base done of plywood (Fatimetou learned to work the plywood with her husband) and hand painted with intricate motifs.

Cecile N'Diaye at her studio in Keur Massar, Dakar , Senegal 2016
Cecile has been working the leather for several years with her husband, they created Mis Wude in Dakar that specializes in bags and accessories. In the last 3 years she has been developing a personal work always using leather that enters anew artistique dimension, She collaborates with photographers like Antoine Tempé their work was been exhibited at the the Bienalle de Dakar 2016 and then travelled to the Vitra Museum, Bâle, Guggenheim, Bilbao, Spain, CCCB, Barcelona,  Kunstdall, Rotterdam and the Museum d'histoire Naturelle de la ville d'Havre. This year she created a piece that has been shown at the Salon Revelations Paris 2017.

leather stitches
All the time in our stay in Atar we were surrounded by women, neighbors or family that came to help Fatimetou and talk with us. We were invited to their places to drink tea or to join them in the evenings in one of the wedding parties going on the village.

tea making at 11 am

washing the dishes
Cecile trying to read Art et Coutumes des Maures while suffering from the heat
We didn't go to any wedding. We listened to the music from the court yard were we slept under the stars while waiting for some coolness to arrive late at night or in the early morning. The heat is exhausting and we were only perfectly functional from 6.30 am to 11.30 am after it was a struggle specially the hours from 2 pm to 5 pm.

waiting for taxi and La Gueila in Chinguetti
A cultural trip to Chinguetti was taken we expected the village to be cooler than Atar as its higher in the plateau and surrounded by sand dunes not raock mountains.
Fatimetou had to go and see the doctor in Chinguetti's Hospital and we joined her and decided to visit our friend Sylvette that has a great Maison d'Hotês - La Gueila in Chinguetti.

Seif Islam library in Chinguetti
The day we travelled and during our stay in Chinguetti the temperatures had fallen a bit. we could walk around in the mornings and late afternoons. We visited the markets for fresh dates and the private libraries that hold manuscripts dating from centuries ago.

Seif Islam reciting bi lingual poetry for children
Seif Islam gave a beautiful overview of the history and patrimony from this village dating from the XI century.

Illuminated manuscript from Seif Islam Library , Chinguetti
entry of the old village of Chinguetti with watering area for animals
looking at the sea of dunes surrounding the village of Chinguetti
And back to Atar a last tea with Cher, last exchanges with Fatimetou.and the girls came to decorate our hads and feet with henna (check this beautiful page  الحنة الموريتانية in facebook with Mauritanian henna motifs)

henna session for Cecile 

To find out about this residence in photographes check the Zeinart entry here

on our last day new people came to say hello goodbye

last tea during henna session with our faithful companion the FAN

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