Seni Awa Camara - Clay divinator

The ouolof artist gives shape to stories, events, and feelings that have been dreamt, revealed, or created from fantasy

Contemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

Untitled (2006) by Seyni Awa CamaraContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

Seni Awa Camara’s (born c. 1945, Bignona, Senegal) outlook on life is based on revealed truths, on timeless stories, on the world of human beings and the objects that surround them, and on her status as a Ouolof woman with an obligation to unite past and present.

She was raised by her mother, who was also a potter, and who taught her sculpture when she was still a child. She had two twin brothers, and all three retreated into the forests of Casamançe to obey a mysterious and divine initiation.

“We were sheltered by God’s spirits, who taught us to work with clay.” Camara models clay and gives shape to stories, events, and feelings that have been dreamt, revealed, or created from fantasy.

Untitled (1996) by Seyni Awa CamaraContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

She has gathered a substantial number of her sculptures in her home which could be described as a “theater without a stage,” full of objects and human figures placed according to size—ranging from examples less than twelve inches high to those which tower at eight feet.

Untitled (2006) by Seyni Awa CamaraContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

For Camara, her figures represent the world as she sees it, with people that are, good, bad, beautiful, or ugly. All these creatures are modeled in the yard in front of her house, and fired in an open-hearth kiln.

Untitled (1999) by Seyni Awa CamaraContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

She explains the distorted faces of her creations as a response to our indifference to our ancestors. Or when forty small monsters are clinging to a pregnant mother, it’s because we’re all fleeing from something!

Untitled (1996) by Seyni Awa CamaraContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

Before unveiling her “secrets,” she locks herself in with her talisman (an ox-horn) and everything becomes possible. Regarding art, she answers: “I am thinking, I have an idea, I am working.”

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