By Garrett Louis Wachoski-Dark, November 29 2020—
Omar Ba is a Senegalese artist who now divides his time between Dakar, Senegal and Geneva, Switzerland. An exhibit at Contemporary Calgary, Same Dream, presents a collection of his work from the past decade.
When you first walk into the exhibit, you encounter a wall that gives a history of Ba’s work and the context in which Same Dream was put together. Please do read it, as it gives a good base to start from when analyzing his work.
Being from Senegal, Ba tells a story of growing up in Africa in a post-colonial era. It is easy to forget that only 60 years ago, most of the continent was under the control of various European nations. The independence movements throughout Africa gave people their freedom from European governance, but not their oppression.
As you walk through the exhibit, you should try to pick out signs of Europe’s continued presence in Africa. You might want to look for the obvious, such as flags, or European languages, but also note the more subtle clues like the clothes the people in the paintings are wearing or even the material on which the piece was painted.
Many of Ba’s pieces explore the nature of rebuilding after independence. You can see the destruction that war has caused to the continent, the isolation it has brought to different groups and the poverty that struck an otherwise rich Africa. Look for signs of the destruction of nature and the upsetting of the world ecosystem, symptoms of a world run by exploitative ideas.
Yet behind this mess is an idea that all humans are connected on a fundamental level not only to one another, but also to this world, our home. As you walk around the exhibit you may be seeing this in a specifically African context, but the way in which it is presented makes the ideas readily accessible to someone from Asia, Europe or the Americas. These are emotions common to all peoples.
End your tour of the exhibit by looking at the painting called “Same Dream,” the exhibit’s namesake. There we see Ba as a child, with multiple heads. Each head is adorned with a section of the globe showing the universality of childhood innocence and the fundamental dream of freedom without oppression. Although Ba is African, his many heads show every continent. Now turn around and take a look at the piece painted on the concrete wall and see just how far we have to come to reach this ideal.
The exhibit will remain open to the public until Jan. 31, 2021.