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Biography of Moustapha DIMé

Senegal > Arts : Moustapha DIMé

Moustapha DIMé
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Biography :

Moustapha Dimé (1952-1998), was a Senegalese sculptor.

Born in 1952 in Louga (Senegal), the sculptor Moustapha Dimé died in June 1998 in Saint-Louis du Senegal. During the last years of his life, Dimé withdrew from the world to inhabit an ancient Portuguese fort on the island of Gorée, opposite Dakar. A particularly discreet and reserved individual who avoided journalists, he nevertheless accepted to be interviewed by the artist Pascale Marthine Tayou : for Dimé, "only artists are capable of understanding other artists. "

I’ve been « circumcised » many times in my life...
As a child, I was involved in theater, danced a great deal, and was always getting into fights. When I was growing up, being part of the group was extremely important. Circumcision was the first step of this process : a means of separating the masculine from the feminine. It’s the kind of experience that one never forgets. Radical. There’s pain, but also dignity. It’s a place somewhere beyond feeling : your father is there, your uncle is too, and the idea is to emerge from the experience with your honor intact. It’s an incredible moment, a real transformation of your inner self. This physical mutilation can also reoccur symbolically at other moments of your life. In this sense, I’ve gone through many other circumcisions, including my relationship to sculpture, the people around me, and with myself. All these moments were important passages in my life.

My childhood was inhabited by the night
I’m like a child in quest of himself, trying to harmonise his inner self with the outside world, a child continually searching for inner harmony relative to exterior reality. It’s all a question of balance. I try to feel good about myself and still remain open to others : to give and receive and not lose contact with all the good things that exist in me. The most admirable thing a man can do in life is preserve this inner richness and share it with others. I’m basically the same person since childhood, even if life and experience have progressively transformed some of my values. For example, there was May ‘68, when for a moment, the whole system shook. People wanted change, a different way of looking at and dealing with the world. I was studying sculpture at the time, and all of a sudden I found myself involved with a group of anarchists... But each time a movement develops, people try to find theories to justify their actions. I didn’t and still don’t believe that it is always necessary to justify one’s acts. The experience of May ‘68 had a deep impact upon my work. I became more rigorous and demanding, and much more committed to what I was doing. I dropped out of school and began studying sculpture and wood-working in a handicrafts center. But I was unsatisfied with what I was doing there : I had to go even farther. I left Senegal, and for the next three years lived in Mali, Burkina, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria. I became aware of the differences between all of these West African cultures: the different ways of life, the ways of looking at things, the value-systems. And one day, I asked myself : What am I actually doing here ? So I went back to Senegal, and the process of my own transformation began. In reality, what I had to do was the accomplishment of myself and my own destiny. For me, that’s a personal and not a collective experience.

There seems to be a separation between Moustapha Dimé the man, and Moustapha Dimé the artist. A certain distance between the idea of the group as the central point of reference, for example. My feeling is that there were periods in your life where you had to fight hard just to be recognised and accepted for yourself.
My personal history is made up of everything I’ve come in contact with. Everyone tries to add his particular grain of sand to the construction of a new culture in Senegal. There is a sort of group consciousness concerning the cultural values of this country, and I’m quite comfortable feeling part of it. The idea stimulates me, even though I try to transcend it in my work. Some of my choices in life put me in conflict with my family. In the 1970s, sculptors were considered as ordinary craftsmen: there was no other place for them in society. There were also no examples to follow. At school, the prevailing model was European and the approach to art was totally academic. For me, the best way to educate a person is to allow him to discover own identity through his nation’s history, art and cultural heritage... I’ve revolted agains that sort of thing more than once, but my travels through the traditional regions Senegal gave me a precise idea of who I was and what I wanted to do. I discovered this in the provinces, rather than in beating my head against the walls of the cities. It has conditioned the work I do today. Am I going in the right direction ? I don’t even ask myself that. But I do have other doubts. For instance, what really is an artist? Or the role of an artist? I ask myself these questions every day.

Last update : 07/19/2007

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