Atelier Artistic process through photography and painting

Date: 10 till 20 March 2017

My name is Cindy van der Aa and I am an artist. I work mainly with oil paint on canvas. In my early work I explored abandoned landscapes with industrial forms. Inspired by my trip to Chad last year (first time Africa) it made me explore the lone figure and the ‘recently departed’ figure, presenting landscapes that make us question who or what inhabits this place. I am also part of an organization called Voice4Thought (V4T). V4T is an artistic scientific project that focuses on the alternative production and sharing of knowledge. The project brings together different forms of knowledge production: (citizen) journalists, artists, activists and scientists from the north and south tell their story of change. The dialogue between these people and their worlds is knowledge that can change the world.

As an exchange Aziz invited me to his festival, after we met last year in Holland at the festival of V4T. The idea was to create work with Malian artists and to do a workshop with the youth at his festival. This trip has been a personal and professional journey. I came to Mali to have inspiration for me as an artist and V4T asked me to do a workshop. Working with artists from Mali was a challenge but also very interesting. Together we created a work that represents the Cultural Centre of Aziz, Agoratoire. The challenge was at first the language since my French is not the best but once we got started it was clear that painting is an universal language. I learned a lot about different techniques you can use for instance how to prepare a canvas and different styles of painting and the use of paint. As a painter I am used to work alone so to work with this 2 artists puts me completely out of my comfortzone, but I believe that is always a good thing.

I created a workshop especially for the festival in Mali. As V4T we embrace each year another theme in our festival. This year it’s about radicalisation. Why is our world polarizing so quickly, and why is it associated with hostility, incomprehension and violence? What role does religion, politics or racism play? My goal with the workshop ‘Artistic process through photography and painting’ was to tell this story through the eyes of the youth of Mali by making a visual story of their ‘quartier’. The workshop consists of 2 parts. The first day the youth will go into the street and take pictures of what they believe is a strong contrast in the neighborhood. For instance, poor/rich, fulani/farmer or religious differences. As an artist I always get inspiration by camera because looking through the lens you learn to look critically to your environment. The second day is all about creating an artwork by paint. By painting you will admit emotions at the subject of your choice by focusing at the technique using lines and brushstrokes.

The moment I arrived in Bamako I was told that I would give this workshop at a school for disabled children (Amademe) and not youth, but children aged about 8 years old, so I had to change the plan a little bit. The teachers of the school, together with the children, showed me the ‘quartier’ where the school is located. I believe it is one of the poorest quartiers of Bamako, but at the same time it was very inspirational. A lot of contrasts were present, dirt against the beautiful colorful clothing the people were wearing, clean laundry hanging above garbage, the positivity of the people in this mostly negative environment. I gave the children a camera and my phone so they could take pictures. The next day I went back to paint with the children. It was amazing, it was the first time they ever saw paint in their life. At first they started hesitantly with one brush, but after I showed them how to mix colors they got really excited and kept asking for more paint and paper.

Overall, I think the cultural centre of Aziz does very important work in Bamako and I felt honored to be invited and to participate at the festival Fish Mali. To express yourself through art and music is as important as living and breathing. For me personally it was dealing with the unexpected and meeting people who embrace purity, warmth and sincerity. And living in the present, life is now, not yesterday, not tomorrow.