Artist Fally Sene Sow takes us soaring high above the city streets to give us a bird’s eye view of the action in Colobane, one of Dakar’s most popular markets. With his use of urban motifs and assortment of found objects, Sow’s intricate multimedia collages provide a modern take on the ancient Senegalese art of Sous-verre (‘under glass’ painting).
Colobane – where Sow grew up and still lives – has become the city’s biggest flea market for clothing, books, electronics and a plethora of other new and second-hand items. The tonnes of used clothes from the West that find their way to Colobane each year have created a sector which employs over 24,000 people who work in the sorting, washing, repairing, trading and distribution of second hand garments and accessories.
There is a popular saying that “You can find anything in the world at Colobane Market” and just like the real market, anything and everything can be found in Sow’s collages: cut outs from photos and magazines, tin foil, pieces of string, scraps of fabric, chewing gum wrappers, and even tufts of sheep’s hair.
The elevated perspective takes us away from the traffic, smog and noise and shows us a beautiful, multi-coloured patchwork created by the market stall awnings and glittering zinc roofs. But everything looks fragile and delicate, reminding us of the physical frailty and impermanence of these ‘shops’ and the precarious livelihoods of the stall-holders themselves.
Colobane, as with many other informal African markets, doesn’t have a legal basis for its existence; it could be forced to dismantle, move or close down at a moment’s notice. Sow’s portrayals of market life are not only visually striking but serve as documentation of an area, a community, and a way of life that although seemingly very rooted is, in reality, anything but.
If you’re in Senegal and interested in purchasing Sow’s work, email him at email@example.com
Watch a short video of Fally talking about his work here (in French).