Nino Mier Gallery is pleased to present a presentation of sculptures by Senegal-based artist Seyni Awa Camara. On view from May 5 – June 10, 2023, Seyni Awa Camara: 1990 - 2022 marks the artist’s first exhibition with the gallery. The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue featuring a new essay by curator, writer, and art historian Eva Barois de Caevel.
Seyni Awa Camara creates totemic works evoking subjects ranging from bestiaries to motor vehicles and maternity scenes. Camara’s sculptures are influenced by her dreams, where she first divines her forms. After preparing her clay, sometimes adding ore or other natural media to the mixture, the artist begins to sculpt her works. Over the course of many days, sometimes weeks, Camara carves the complex forms appearing in each work. She then fires the clay on a wooden pyre before immersing it in a liquid obtained from putrefied tree pods. This final stage lends the sculptures their color and robust, textured quality.
The artist, now in her eighties, was born in the Casamance region of Senegal, where she still lives and works in the village Bignona. An oft-cited local legend posits that she and her brothers were kidnapped by forest spirits when they were young. For over four months, they taught the children about pottery. Camara and her brothers reappeared one morning, pottery in hand, after four months of absence. In actuality, Camara was introduced to traditional pottery techniques by her mother when she was a child. As Camara grew older, she began producing not only the utilitarian ceramics used by her family, but also sculptures to sell in the market near her home. The legend, despite its fictiveness, speaks to the force of her work as a conduit to what is unknown and unseen. “What is behind the story of the little girl lost—and not found—in the forest?” Caevel has queried. “There is […] a perception of the world as double: the “visible” world being that of men and women, and the “invisible” world that of spirits, gods, and ancestors.”1 Camara’s polyphonous sculptures—which conjoin multiple figures, animals, and perspectives within their vertical constructions—mediate between those two worlds.
Seyni Awa Camara (b. 1939, Casamance, SN; lives and works in Bignona, SN) has had solo exhibitions at Baronian Xippas, Brussels, BE; Galeria Kalao, Bilbao, ES; Galerie Nathalie Fiks, Paris, FR; De Crescenzo & Viesti, Rome, IT; and Gallery 39, Dakar, SE. Her group exhibitions include Foundation Louis Vuitton, Paris, FR; White Cube, London, UK; Centre Pompidou and Halle de la Vilette, Paris, FR; Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Turin, IT; Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, ES, among many others. Camara is the subject of a 2015 documentary by Fatou Kandé Senghor, which was presented at the Venice Biennale.