Art and design
Gallery Arte Dakar was created in 1996 by Joëlle le Bussy, in Dakar, Senegal. The gallery presents contemporary African creations. It exhibits works from the continent’s greatest artists and actively participates at the Biennial of Contemporary African Art (Dak’art).
The gallery also presents design works and handicrafts from Africa. One can notice in the showroom located at 5 Victor Hugo Street, original crafts from the best Senegalese craftsmen, African-inspired jewelry as well as home décor and furniture created by Joëlle.
Joëlle le Bussy is a renowned designer of African-inspired home décor and furniture. In May 2008, she was officially selected at the Dak’art and won a prize for design for a Baoulé table, which was presented at the NYGift Fair. She regularly exhibits her creations in Paris, in Leburon in southern France or in Brussels.
She mixes African and European styles, a reflection of her personality as she is herself of African and European descent (origin: Belgium/Congo and France/Senegal).
Hence, by mixing African-European designs and the know-how of Senegalese cabinetmakers from Casamance, Joëlle was able to create two collections of original furniture and home décor
The traditional collection
furniture where some parts are traditional African recycled materials, such as the Nongo furniture that was presented at the Gift Fair, which uses a traditional Dogon hut door from Mali instead of a classic door. The traditional collection tells the history of Africa through objects, furniture.
The contemporary collection
the line is contemporary and we use different African precious wood species to create a patchwork or motifs on the furniture. The motifs are inspired by African designs: Bakuba from Congo, Ashanti from Ghana, Dogon from Mali, etc.
The furniture handles are also crafted by hand, one by one, by blacksmiths from Senegal. They use iron or bronze using the lost wax method.
The furniture and objects are created as unique pieces or in a limited series. There are no large industrial scale manufacturing of furniture and objects in Senegal and each piece is done by hand. Cut with a machine, the raw material is then exclusively worked by hand and the sculptures are drawn from the mass. It is of course possible to produce certain quantities of the same type of product but the production will be done one by one and each piece will have its own personality.
It is also possible to realize custom-made furniture and objects by adapting to the requirements of the client.
The gallery has its own cabinetmaking workshop. The 10 cabinetmakers working in the workshop are from Casamance, a region south of Senegal. The “Casamançais” (Diola, Mandingue, Mankagne ethnic groups) come from the south of Senegal. Most of Senegal has a Sahelian climate and vegetation and has no contact with the wood, apart from the palm tree, and the baobab that is a sacred tree as well as the emblem of Senegal.
Wooden art is then quite rare in the northern part of Senegal, and Senegalese in general excel more in painting and contemporary art than in wooden art. On the contrary, in the south, in Casamance, the climate becomes tropical and the trees are growing: beautiful tree species such as “vène”, “dimb”, “linké”, “caicédra”, “ronier”. In the south, the inhabitants are in permanent contact with wood, which they use on a daily basis and know more than anybody how to work on it and honor it. The wood is sacred, and the young people in Casamance are initiated in the Sacred Forest where they retire for a certain period of time. They learn at early stage how to recognize the different species, and some of them work traditionally on the wood, which is the case of the cabinetmakers of the workshop. The people from Casamance have a traditional and cultural respect towards wood and some species of wood deserve prayers before being worked on
The types of wood used are noble species coming from legally recognized plantations and all have legal certificates. They are coming from the whole African continent: Gabon, Cameroun, Senegal (Casamance), Ghana, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire. The species of wood used are “linké”, “dimb”, “vène”, “fraké”, “movingué”, “padouk”, “bête”, “dibétou”, “teck”, “sipo”, “sapléli”, “wengué”, “mbossé”, “framiré”, etc… Some species of wood are very rare such as “ébène” or ”ronier” do not come from plantations, but are rather reclaimed wood, organic, that already fell to become firewood. These wood species are used for handicraft rather than burned, with an authorization of the Waters and Forestry Services, after a communal decree.
Treatment of the wood
The wood is dried naturally then stored in the workshop without risking deterioration. All used natural woods are treated against xylophages in their country of origin. This is supervised by the phyto-sanitary service when imported in Senegal. The wood is then treated a second time against xylophages in the workshops of gallery Arte before being worked on. The wood is treated a third time by fumigation with methyl bromide, when the furniture or object is created, before being exported.
Finishing of the wood
The furniture and objects are sanded then smoothed and finished by hand using wax stamp and shellac following the French tradition which was taught to the cabinetmakers. It is advised to wax the wood from time to time (once or twice a year) to nourish the wood with a dry and smooth cloth. If a white stain appears after being in contact with water, it will disappear when waxed.
The industrial beewax is a good quality and is recommended but it should not be in direct contact with food (for wooden plates and wooden utensils).
Maintenance of the wood
Only reconstituted wood particle boards or plywood can have stability similar to plastic. Solid wood is more resistant to time but it is a living and noble material and can sometimes react to differences in temperatures. The wood should not be put in heated areas or directly in sunlight, as well as areas that are too cold, too dry or too humid. The tropical wood species used can handle very well, from experience, average temperatures in developed countries households, and do not encounter major problems if well maintained.