Dakar Art Scene

The Dakar Art Scene can show some exciting modern art, often with a root in African traditions

Village de Arts, Dakar art scene. Dakars kunstscene.
Village de Arts, Dakar art scene. Dakars kunstscene.

We are more than usually interested in art and when we decided to spend Christmas and New Year in Dakar, Senegal; it was only natural that we tried to figure out the Dakar art scene and where the exciting modern art was exhibited. West Africa has a lot to offer when it comes to traditional art, like sculpture and masks, but where do we find the modern art? The Dakar art scene is exciting, but not easy to get acquainted with for outsiders, especially when we do not speak French! But after searching back and forth on the Internet and some tips from our hostess Laurence, we managed to se some interesting exhibitions and meet some of the artists.

Village de Arts, Dakar art scene. Dakars kunstscene.
Village de Arts, Dakar art scene. Dakars kunstscene.


First stop was Village des Arts de Dakar. It is located at Rte. de Yoff, heading towards the airport. Here artists can get a studio space and some support from the government. It’s like a small walled village where people work and some also live here. Some foreign artists are also invited to stay in shorter periods as Artists in Residens. This is probably one of the most important measures to support the contemporary art in Senegal and an important contribution to the Dakar art scene.

Village de Arts, Dakar art scene. Dakars kunstscene.
Village de Arts, Dakar art scene. Dakars kunstscene.

It is a delightful mix of reputable and serious artists and some more amateur like that mass produce for markets. We walk around and are allowed to peep into most workshops and studios. Many places were closed though. We got there quite early in the day and according to our hostess, we should have visited in the afternoon when most people would be present and working full time.

Village de Arts, Dakar art scene. Dakars kunstscene.
Village de Arts, bilde av Lassana Gassama, Dakar art scene. Dakars kunstscene.

We met a photographer who had some poignant and critical pictures of demonstrations in Dakar during the presidential election two years ago. Mamadou Toure Behan is both a press and art photographer, well known in Senegal. In the studio next to him, we met Louis Eketoubo Bassene. He makes large pictures in mixed media. At Lassana Gassama`s studio we bought a small painting with 6 faces.

There is also a gallery with changing exhibitions at Village des Arts. When we visited it was made clear for a big collective exhibition that would open a few days afterwards, but we still got to take a look. The gallery is called Leopold Sedar Senghor Galerie, after Senegal’s first president.


Outdoor Exhibition on Ile de Goree:

At Ile de Goree we unexpectedly got to see a very nice outdoor exhibition; Formes et Paroles (Form and words), it stands until 29 March 2015. The participating artists are Thierry Fontaine from La Reunion with the photos, Bill Kouélany from Congo (Kube in Building blocks of grids, Trân Trong Vu, from France with a plastic flower installation and Nadia Myre from Canada. Ile de Goree is a wonderful idyllic island with a grisly past of the slave trade. Read more about it on the post: Goree Island and the Slave Trade.


Ile de Goree. Dakar art scene. Dakars kunstscene.
Ile de Goree, Thierry Fontaine. Dakar art scene. Dakars kunstscene.
Dakar art scene. Dakars kunstscene.
Ile de Goree, Trân Trong Vu. Dakar art scene. Dakars kunstscene.

Fally Sène Sow:


25 years old Fally Sène Sow is a great representative of Senegal’s young artists. We met Fally first time in Dakar where he has a small studio at the same place we were living. His pictures aroused our interest immediately and have a pictorial language that was appealing and aroused our curiosity. The technique is a mix of drawing and collage put under glass. Painting on glass is an old traditional technique in Senegal, but Fally have developed the technique and given it a completely personal expression. He wants to tell stories through his artwork. Stories from the district in Dakar where he grew up, Colobane, and where he still lives with his parents and siblings. The technique is called Sous-verre (reverse glass painting), but it does not describe quite what Fally does in his pictures. His work is well more described as mixed media glass collages. Here you can see a video with Fally and some of his works.

Fally has been drawing since he was a kid and he soon discovered that it was his passion. He has no art education, but with eagerness and ability to explore, he has already come a long way and has been recognized as an artist in Senegal. He had his first exhibition in Dakar in 2008 and sold every thing. Since that it has been many exhibitions in Senegal and in 2015 he will go to Cologne in Germany to do an exhibition there.

Fally tells me that the traditional sous-verre pictures do not inspire him, but he is nonetheless working in an African tradition, in that he tells stories through his pictures. Often he writes down words as the basis for his paintings. With dreamy eyes he recites:

“Beautiful things are looked by eyes but caught by the heart

Oh creators – oh art lovers

There is not place for the spiteful person

Neither faculty nor degree we find our self in that level”

No doubt that he has a philosopher in him as well and he tells me that freedom is the most important for him. He must be free to do whatever he wants with his art and to choose the direction he wants. He does not want to join any art organizations. He is afraid that it may restrict his artistic practice.

Fally is a self-conscious young man, yet he feels like in an existence halfway between dream and reality. He experiences his success as an artist as a dream and hope he will never wake up.

IFAN/ Museum Theodore Monod. Museum of African Art, Place Soweto, Plateau Dakar:

IFAN Museum has a great collection of Western African masks, sculptures and jewelry. The upstairs has temporary exhibitions. It costs 5000 XOF pp. for foreigners and opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday 9:00 to 18:00.

They had a big photo exhibition of the Senegalese national sport, wrestling at the time we visited. This particular form of wrestling in the sand has a long tradition in Senegal, especially with the Serer tribe. It was originally a preparation and training for warriors.

IFAN/ Museum Theodore Monod. Dakar art scene. Dakars kunstscene.
IFAN/ Museum Theodore Monod. Dakar art scene. Dakars kunstscene.

Leopold Sedar Senghor French Institute:

The French Institute in Dakar has a library, a gallery, a restaurant and are offering concerts every week.

Galerie Le Manege:

Galerie Le Manege has changing exhibitions and is just nearby the Senegalese National Gallery, Galerie Nationale d`Art. The French institute runs the place.

Galerie Nationale d`Art was closed because they prepared a new exhibition when we were there. The museum is located at Platou, not far from Kermel Market.

Galerie Nationale d`Art i Dakar. Dakar art scene. Dakars kunstscene.
Galerie Nationale d`Art i Dakar. Dakar art scene. Dakars kunstscene.

Raw material Company, Dakar

Raw material Company is run by curator Koyo Kouoh. Extremist Muslim groups vandalized the place in 2013. They have changing exhibitions and a restaurant.

Open Tuesday to Saturday 12:00 to 19:00, 4074 bis SICAP Amitie 1, Dakar. We visited the place several times during opening hours, but found it still closed.


We visited La Galerie Arte on Rue Victor Hugo 5, approximately midway between the railway station and the French Institute. You will find a lot of modern African crafts at affordable prices and with good craftsmanship.

Dakar art scene. Dakars kunstscene.
Alicu NDoye outside his shop. Dakar art scene. Dakars kunstscene.

Er du interessert i tradisjonell vest-afrikansk kunst er det mange tilbud, men vanskelig å vite om ting er nytt eller gammelt. Vi fant en liten hyggelig butikk med morsomme ting og en hyggelig eier, Galerie Kadjandou i 93 Rue A. Assane Ndoye. Eieren heter Alicu NDoye.

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  • I just watched a movie about Dakar yesterday and did find my self thinking to be nice to visit this side of Africa too. I was only in Uganda so far and LOVED it! Africa is such a magical place and me and my hubby are actually thinking to do an overland travel from Morocco to Senegal.

    • You should do that! Morocco is also great and the south of Morocco which you have to travel through to get to Senegal is just an adventure. We drove down to Tarfaya last year. We went to Uganda some years ago and loved it too. Did you see the mountain gorillas?

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