“I discovered Dakar on a layover in 1997, back when Air Afrique was the sole provider of flights from the west to Nigeria,” says African American New York-based artist Kehind Wiley known for his highly naturalistic paintings of black people and his commission in 2017 to paint a portrait of President Barack Obama for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. “It was my first visit to Africa and I was immediately enraptured by Senegalese language, food, art, culture, and tradition. After years of exploring the continent's many cultures and countries I had a personal desire to create a workspace in West Africa. As an Artist who works in the west I desired a space of renewal to explore new ideas and to create work outside of a western context— to create work within the context of my own lineage.”
Black Rock, named after the volcanic rocks that surround its nearby shoreline located on the westernmost point of continental Africa, the physical location serves as a metaphorical point of departure—one that aims to further change in the global discourse surrounding the creative evolution of Africa. A group of international visual artists, writers, and filmmakers will join Kehinde at his new artists compound.
A view of Black Rock compound. 2019. Courtesy of © Kehinde Wiley 2019
Announced in May 2019, the inaugural list of artists includes British painter Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, Swiss artist Laurence Bonvin, American artist Sonya Clark, Nigerian artist and self-taught photographer Yagazie Ledi Francisca Emezi, American photographer and video artist Nona Faustine, American artist Devin B Johnson, American textile-based artist Heather Jones, American painter Grace Lynne Haynes, South African sculptor Zanoxolo Sylvester Mqeku, Nigerian writer Kelechi Njoku, American filmmaker Chelsea Odufu, American multi-disciplinary artist Kambui Oljimi, German-Ghanaian multidisciplinary artist Zohra Opoku, Brazilian conceptual and multi-disciplinary artist Rafael Rodrigues Gomes da Silva, American painter Tajh Rust, and American writer and filmmaker Ytasha Womack.
The area around Black Rock, Dakar. 2019. Courtesy of © Kehinde Wiley 2019
“Being back in Dakar after exactly 10 years—this time at Black Rock (!)—feels like revisiting and meeting the younger me, who was exploring then a still unknown West-Africa,” says Opoku who spends much of her time in Accra. “Today I know exactly what I am interested in and can embrace the opportunity of being pampered while I can make a maximum usage of my research time there.”
The inaugural residency year runs from June 2019 through February 2020, with accepted artists will invited to live and work on-site at the Black Rock compound in Dakar for between one and three month intervals. The residents will be offered room, board, and an individual studio space as well as be provided with local staff to assist in navigating the city of Dakar and also a language tutor to assist with English, French, and Wolof—the three primary languages of the programme. The residency also offers a modest stipend for incidentals and additional art supplies.
An apartment area for visiting artists. 2019. Courtesy of © Kehinde Wiley 2019
“Black Rock stands as the direct answer to my desire to have an uncontested relationship with Africa, the filling in of a large void that I share with many African Americans,” continues Wiley. “With this project I wanted to explore my own personal relationship with Africa while inviting artists to do the same and to galvanize the growing artistic and creative energies that exist in Africa in an increasing measure with the addition of diverse, international, creative possibility.”