The sweeper sweeps a lonely street in Dakar. It’s a hard, thankless job. It doesn’t pay him a lot. But he must earn a living. Nobody notices him. Except the man sitting at the street corner, who is probably worse off. He’s unemployed.
The sweeper sweeps. The chicken gets out of the way. The job might be hard, but the man has to earn his wages. Later tonight, he’ll go to a bar and drink and dance. Life isn’t so bad.
Camara Gueye paints the street sweepers, the boys in the street, the blue-collar workers in urban Dakar. He paints their struggle. His juxtapositions illuminate the complex reality of life in urban Africa. There is struggle, but there’s also optimism. There is despair, but there’s hope. There is stagnation, but there’s latent energy.
His characters might struggle, but there is nobility in their struggle – a determination to forge ahead. The sweeper’s face, as with the faces of many of his characters, expresses hope, pride, determination – not despair or sorrow.
He tells the story of an urban Africa that struggles but never surrenders. The people he paints might have no money, but they have an abundance of joy. When he paints the bar scene, he paints the joy of people revelling despite their struggle. He paints the good times after a hard day.
Sometimes he paints on paper, then sticks the painted paper unto canvas, creating an uneven patchwork that mirrors the haphazardness of the lives he explores. He is not one for beautiful surfaces or neatly constructed canvases.
Life is too jagged, too uneven, too unfinished for that.
African Stories Exhibition. Hourglass Gallery. 4 pm July 27.