Joe Ouakam, Iconic Artist or piece of art ? Joe was preparing his exhibition in Dakar while he was bedridden. Shortly before his death on April 25th, I met his friend Wasis Diop, guiding him with his eyes , ” this is where the artwork is” he said, as he pointed towards him.
Joe Ouakam , born Issa Samb in 1945 – Ramangélissa Samb in his poems , is a character, a real actor playing in his biopic.
You Enter Agit ‘Art, his laboratory, and lights, camera, action… for you, for your eyes … in the middle of the strident sounds of music of an old tape recorder; and gigantic trees that remind us of the palaver tree of our ancestors, that of African tales.
Whether he was an artist or not, unknown or not, he invited you according to his mood that can be tyrannical, but actually theatrical – to improvise from his installations, sculptures or paintings that changed daily. Yes, Joe was a curator, a scenographer of his famous “museum” , he was dynamic, open air, so much that the rain was his and his paintings friend , to cultivate the what wouldn’t last long.
If you had the courage, you could meet his famous multidisciplinary laboratory members; or even, the names of those who went missing, that he went to join to “paint portraits of his dead brothers” he writes in “The foam of the Sun”, his latest collection of 2016…
17 Jules Ferry Street was unlike any other workshop. It combined the ancestral legacy of a son of “Kam” (Wa – Kam, which means “those of Kam”, a common Leboue of the Les Mamelles Lighthouse, while mixing sacred rituals of the people of the water with experiment, modernity and sharing…
Very avant-garde and international, you could catch him teasing his friends in his native tongue, or speaking Peulh, then all of a sudden he would turn into a French academic with a Parisian accent. As a brilliant and sophisticated intellectual, this Visual artist has toured the world with his art, his films, and his books… thus the world came to him.
The Agit’Art laboratory , which was also his home , was a cultural institution for meetings and exchanges under an enormous and vigorous rubber tree. This place, which was a garden of adaptation he maintained for more than 40 years around art, in the heart of the Dakar-Plateau, is continuing its fate. Although Joe’s yard will be nothing but a place to live, Issa Samb is already inspiring the new generation of artists *.
The man with the black beret, pipe and round glasses, a historical monument of the continent’s art left as he wished: peacefully dying in his laboratory. He is immortal, as is the Leboue custom, by becoming the “APPR” (protective spirit – or no in wolof) of the Plateau, because the deads do not die back home.