Celebrated Senegalese Artist, Issa Samb, Has Passed Away

Prolific Senegalese interdisciplinary artist, Issa Samb, also known as, Joe Ouakam (after the neighborhood his was born in), passed away peacefully yesterday. He was 71.

The painter, sculptor, performance artists, playwright and poet, was one of the co-founders of Laboratoire Agit’Art, a Dakar-based collective dedicated to revitalizing African art through the examining of international forms of artistic expression and schools of thought.

Samb studied law and philosophy at the University of Dakar before dedicating his life to the arts, reports RFI Africa. He was an outspoken critic of the commercialization of Senegalese art, and he was one of the first artists to openly critique the literary philosophy of Négritude.

According to French news outlet, Le Quotidien, the artists once vehemently called out mercantilism in the art world during a video interview. “The beauty of the world is art and culture,” he said. “Now the so-called artists are selling this beautiful heritage left to us by our ancestors.”

Samb’s stand-out style and vibrant aesthetic made him a recognizable figure in his community and beyond. His home in Dakar is a city treasure that features a courtyard full of unique artifacts. It’s known as a meeting place for artists and intellectuals, which will hopefully be preserved long after his passing.

In 2010 the National Gallery of Dakar exhibited a retrospective on the artist’s life and career.

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