Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

WEB NEWS

France's top consumer group sues Internet giants

Read more

WEB NEWS

Web users pay tribute to South Korea ferry victims

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

A landslide victory for the 'invisible candidate' in Algeria's Presidential polls

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 18 April 2014

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 18 April 2014 (part 2)

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Presidential adviser resigns over "shoe-shine scandal"

Read more

#THE 51%

Breaking stereotypes

Read more

#TECH 24

Galaxy S5 v. HTC One (M8): Which is the right one for you?

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

New PM Manuel Valls outlines priorities

Read more

  • Why Syria’s cash-strapped jihadists let hostages go

    Read more

  • Video: Ukraine separatist crisis overshadows Easter celebrations

    Read more

  • The Great War's unsung four-legged heroes

    Read more

  • Divers begin pulling bodies from sunken South Korean ferry

    Read more

  • Ukraine rebels call for Russian troops after deadly clash

    Read more

  • UK’s Hamilton cruises to victory at Chinese Grand Prix

    Read more

  • Freed French journalists arrive home after Syria ordeal

    Read more

  • Syria’s Assad visits recaptured Christian town at Easter

    Read more

  • In pictures: French kite festival takes flight

    Read more

  • Le Pen’s National Front fail to woo Britain’s Eurosceptics

    Read more

  • PSG clinch fourth League Cup title after beating Lyon

    Read more

  • Militants kill Algerian soldiers in deadly ambush

    Read more

  • Scores killed in South Sudan cattle raid

    Read more

  • VIDEO: Anti-Semitic leaflets in Eastern Ukraine condemned

    Read more

  • Bouteflika, the ghost president

    Read more

  • Does Valls’ upcoming Vatican trip violate French secularism?

    Read more

  • Ukraine separatists say ‘not bound’ by Geneva deal

    Read more

  • Abel Ferrara’s hotly awaited DSK film to premiere on web

    Read more

  • Obama signs bill to block controversial Iran diplomat from UN post

    Read more

  • Astronomers discover Earth-like planet that could support life

    Read more

  • In pictures: Iranian woman pardons son’s killer at the gallows

    Read more

France

French fine arts academy elects first African artist

© Photo: AFP

Video by Nicolas GERMAIN

Text by Charlotte BOITIAUX

Latest update : 2013-12-13

Senegalese sculptor Ousmane Sow, who sculpted Nelson Mandela as a goalkeeper charged with keeping “corrupt African heads of state at bay," became the first African artist to be admitted to France’s prestigious Académie des Beaux-Arts on Thursday.

Sow was elected to the esteemed French Academy of Fine Arts – one of France’s five creative “académies” – at a ceremony in Paris on Thursday, at which the world-renowned sculptor dedicated the honour to “all of Africa, its diaspora and the great man who has just left us, Nelson Mandela”.

He also paid tribute to his late countryman, Senegalese writer Léopold Sédar Senghor, who was the first African to be elected to the Académie française (France’s academy of French language) in 1983.

Born in the Senegalese capital of Dakar in 1935, Sow is one of Francophone Africa’s most prominent artists. He is known for sculpting his imposing creations without the use of a model.

Sow's sculptures on the Pont des Arts, Paris, 1999. Photo: AFP.

At 78, Sow has spent most of his adult life between Dakar and Paris, where he first moved when he was 22.

As a young man, he found odd jobs in the French capital and sought overnight shelter at police stations and hospitals, apparently in exchange for fresh bread in the morning. He enrolled at a physiotherapy school, where he was able to indulge and develop his fascination for the human body.

Sow had already begun modelling sculptures with the use of stones on the beaches of his home country. In Paris, Sow’s models caught the eye of his teacher; one of his sculptures was even displayed in class.

In 1960, following Senegal’s independence from France, Sow returned to Dakar where he held his first exhibition.

But it was to be decades before he would gain recognition in his adopted country.

Sow stands before some of his sculptures. Photo: AFP.

‘The instinct of a sculptor’

Sow finally captured the attention of Europe in 1999, when his giant sculptures of wrestlers were exhibited on the Pont des Arts bridge near the Louvre in Paris.

He has since exhibited work in France, Germany and Italy.

This year, he moved all the work he still owns to a museum in Senegal, including his most recent series, “Great Men,” which features historical figures such as Charles de Gaulle and Mandela. Sculptures of Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali and Gandhi would be included in his gallery of men who "helped me not despair of mankind," he told AFP in June.

Of his Mandela sculpture, Sow said that “he extends his hand to keep corrupt African heads of state at bay”.

The burly giants are sculpted from the artist’s trademark mixture of clay, rubber, straw, and coated in an all-weather coating.

Sow's sculptures on the Pont des Arts, Paris, 1999. Photo: AFP.

At the academy, Sow will take the vacated seat of American painter Andrew Wyeth, an artist which he admitted he was unfamiliar with. He will be seated in front of Jean Cardot, who praised Sow extensively during Thursday’s ceremony. “You are an example of the richness and marvellous diversity of the artistic expression,” Cardot said. “What daring! What achievement!”

“You have the instinct, as old as humanity, of a sculptor,” Cardot told him.

Sow praised the academy for shunning ethnic quotas, which remain a controversial notion in France. “My election holds even more value, in my eyes, because you have remained wise enough not to instate any racial, ethnic or religious quotas,” he told the academy.

Date created : 2013-12-13

  • USA - FRANCE

    US buyer returns sacred artefacts sold in Paris to tribes

    Read more

  • ART

    French artist Laure Prouvost wins Britain's Turner Prize

    Read more

  • Europe

    French tattooists needled by ban of coloured ink

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)