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Senegal: graphic designers tag Black Power on Dakar

A dozen artists put the final touches on the hectic heart of Dakar, a monumental fresco bearing high the black claim, while refusing the posture of the victim, embodied by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Dakar residents who, at the end of one of the most congested roundabouts in Dakar, embark by car on the access ramp to the expressway crossing the capital, now see oversized faces of activists and personalities as they pass by, black, large, colour-accented highlights over 80 meters of a concrete wall.

Image credit Teller Report

There is a stern-eyed Malcolm X there, American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos brandishing their fists, Senegalese historian Cheikh Anta Diop and American abolitionist Harriet Tubman. But no portrait of George Floyd.

Indeed, the designers of the Radikal Bomb Shot (RBS) collective represented one of the buildings burnt down during the demonstrations that rocked Minneapolis and the United States after the death of George Floyd, the African American who was murdered during his arrest by a white police officer.

But the mural, completed on Monday at the cost of hundreds of bombs and a little acrylic paint, is part of another “dynamic, more offensive than defensive” including 16 to be graffiti on the walls of Dakar and elsewhere, says RBS host Madzoo.

The Collective, one of the main groups that make Dakar a sort of open-air museum of street art, had for quite some time covered the old fresco he had dedicated there to live together and which was fading.

George Floyd’s death in Senegal has not sparked a major movement. "Let our lives matter, no need to say it," says Madzoo. What RBS wants to do is "wake people up" around common struggles, and make sure that when a black man "walks around New York, he knows he has a whole people behind him."

The monumental fresco painted by the collective Radikal Bomb Shot (RBS). Image credit John Wessels, AFP

He preaches "Afrocentrism" and wears a Black Panther T-shirt, the revolutionary African American liberation movement created in 1966. The iconic panther features prominently among the African faces and patterns in the fresco. Madzoo wants to see Black Panther's West African "founding act" in the mural, he says.

This work is "more like Black Power than Black Lives Matter," said Akonga, an artist in the dozen who divided up the tasks facing the concrete wall, in the heat and the exhaust gases.

Akonga, Cherif Tahir Ismail Diop at the civil status, 27, was responsible for the portrait of Kémi Séba, controversial activist, Franco-Beninese pan-Africanist and anti-colonialist essayist. Like Madzoo, the death of George Floyd touches him. But, he adds, "his life is not worth more than all those who died before him". "We don't have to victimize ourselves," he concluded.


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