I purchased my first plane ticket to France at twenty-years-old, leaving behind all that was familiar to me. Little did I know the years growing up in the quiet plains of West Africa would make such an impression on my life– or that sharing it with the rest of the world, would become my destiny.
“I watched the landscape change day and night…it was the only thing real to me.”
From the Northern part of Burkina Faso, Sabce, Africa, my family and I, of the Fulani Tribe, were nomadic herders. We led sheep, goat, and chickens to greener pastures. I was the youngest of seven brothers and two sisters, and one of three kids in my entire village that had that opportunity to attend school. However like most other kids, four months of the year, after school, and on weekends, I, too, was a herder. But it was on those two-mile hikes to and from school each day, I recall questioning our way of life.
We ate to survive. Being vegetarian, our main staples were millet and vegetable. And dry seasons in the region were the most difficult as many animals would starve to death. To me, that was very painful as the animals became an extension of me. I was reminded that each generation before me and after me was destined to remain a herder.
Though I loved the lifestyle for what it gave me: a deep connection to the animal kingdom (sheep would sleep beside and on me), the unforgettable beauty of rainy seasons, and an appreciation for nature that would stay with me forever– I became restless and desired change.
My family thought I was crazy to want more from life. My “sky is wide open” philosophy had them concerned that I was denying what our ancestors gave and did for us. But I couldn’t help it, something nagged at me.
“I wanted it to live on, so I began drawing my feelings and nature around me at twelve-years-old.”
Sometimes I used dirt directly from the hills I was depicting, and I found this dirt didn’t stick. As luck would have it, I stumbled upon gum arabic (a tacky resin from the acacia tree) that I’d boil and chew to harden. It dried clear; it was perfect. Then my brother introduced me to an ancient clothing design technique used mainly by sheep herders, “mud cloth.” I eventually began experimenting with different pigments from nature and mixing them with water and gum arabic. With all of this, my technique began to rapidly take shape, forever influencing my artistic expression.
As a late teen, I moved away to join my brother in our capital city of Onagadoudou, to design clothing. It was here my brother taught me the inner-workings of business and how to sell art to tourists. This is where my love of art and my knack for business came together–and my livelihood was born.
After my travels to France at twenty-years-old, I knew it was time to further explore beyond my country and comforts. Then after visiting the U.S. for the first time in 2004, two years later, I would make Santa Fe my home.
“Nature is open, it’s real. We can see it and breathe it. The sky is unlimited.”
Today, I am fortunate to live my artful life with my mind in the clouds and my feet deeply rooted in the wisdom and experiences I had as a child in nature. You can usually find me selling my paintings in the Art District, Santa Fe or featuring my newest works in art galleries throughout the world.