This museum can be visited like no other, behind a guide navigating on rollerblades from one to the other of the murals which color the dull walls of this district of Dakar with blues and reds.
In the midst of kids kicking the ball under the soccer jerseys of all the teams in the world, it is an informal museum in the image of the African metropolis: bright, malicious or demanding, alive. And expanding.
Children's faces, geometric or animal motifs with naive or resolutely contemporary inspirations ... At the instigation of the Yataal Art association, artists from everywhere have been covering the walls of dozens of houses in the Medina in scattered order for a few years , creating moments suspended in this vast popular and teeming neighborhood which hardly knows any.
Mamadou Boye Diallo, president of Yataal Art who also plays roller-skating guides, calls it "the open-air museum".
It is also a question of preserving its soul in the Medina and of saving from destruction the old houses subjected to real estate pressure.
- Street artists -
Here, at the corner of a dusty street where a sleigh offers plump watermelons, a man named Marto has painted a cat 10 times larger than life waiting casually for a man to be lured by a swatter primed with banknotes. There, it is a fist brandished on a hypnotic blue next to one of the innumerable dibiteries serving grilled meat to the carpenters of the sector.
Initially in 2010, it was Mamadou Boye Diallo and a few other local artists who had painted a wall for a party. Then Yataal Art brought in the "street artists". Now, they ask themselves to come, says Mélodie Petit, vice-president of the association.
They are looking for a place and join the project, she says. "It's not a contract with a motorway company or a commercial brand, it's really human contact."
Yataal Art acts as an intermediary between the artists and the occupants of one of these houses characteristic of French colonization, on one level with the street. We ask permission to use a facade, we apply the material and, often, we share the meal with the family for any compensation, reports Mamadou Boye Diallo.
- The Medina is awakening -
Yataal Art thrives on the history of the Medina, colonial repressor and artistic matrix. The Medina was born in 1914 in a wet depression when the French displaced the black populations there using the "health pretext" of a plague epidemic to keep them away from the Plateau, the district of power, recalls historian Ibrahima Thioub .
The Medina has retained an identity, fostered by migration and conducive to creation, he explains. She saw the musician Youssou N'Dour grow up, who made a song of it. The painter Kre M'Baye had his studio there where his niece Fatoumata Coulibaly and other monitors receive dozens of children to brush up on paper and keep them away from the street.
"At night, when the Plateau dozed, the Medina woke up," slips Ibrahima Thioub.
Without still calling itself "street art", the practice of mural fresco has existed here for almost as long as this district and others of Dakar, underlines Marième Ba, secretary general of the Biennale of contemporary African art. The rural exodus of the 70s, the passion inspired by football, the action of neighborhood associations stimulated production. The activity observed today "marks the bubbling current in the capital and elsewhere in Senegal," she said.
- Sacrificed heritage -
But the Medina, whose "inhabitants all knew each other, with a common attachment to strong values", changes, says sociologist Djiby Diakhate. Large brands, banks open on one of its main avenues. "The rents are higher and higher, the nostalgic can no longer be found there."
The old houses are sacrificed to a "band of elitists who come here to make their buildings", moves the president of Yataal Art. The "street art" renovation of decrepit buildings must save them and their occupants.
"We started little by little. Now we have almost 90 murals". The tourists are more numerous, "we even shoot clips", he ignites. But beware, "we want to keep our originality, we're not in TripAdvisor".
© 2020 AFP