Oumar Mbengue

Collective Member (Senegal)

Oumar Mbengue Atakosso worked as a visual artist in Senegal and France and is a member of the ‘Association Nationale des Artistes Plasticiens du Sénégal’. At the moment he works and lives in Amsterdam.

Oumar Mbengue Atakosso creates two and three dimensional art works. He uses different materials like straw, jute, bronze, iron and polyester. The colours anthracite, black, beige and brown often appear in his work. His work is also called ‘les bas reliefs’.
About this Oumar Mbengue Atakosso says: ‘My three dimensional work completes my two dimensional work: my sculptures reveal that which remains hidden in my ‘ bas reliefs’.’

His work is characterized by its round shapes . Oumar declares that ‘ the semicircle’ forms the basis in his work. All his art works are in fact based on this form. During his education in Dakar, Oumar noticed that in an aesthetical way round shapes attracted him most. This gave him the possibilty to design plastically his objects.

Text: Virtual Museum of Contemporary African Art


As I walk into Oumar Mbengue’s studio it is as if I am literally entering into his theme, or more accurately, as if I become a component in one of his installations. Dozens of objects are lying or standing at the back of the small room. In disorderly order. All these found objects have been sewn into the fabric of horse blankets. Some are tightly enfolded, for some the fabric has been allowed room to manoeuvre. As a result the blankets seem to take on the character of rosettes or tufts. Almost decorative. The objects vary in shape and size. The masquerade has robbed most of their identity. The origins of others are even now betrayed by their shape. A cupboard, part of a doll, a pair of shoes, etc.

At the centre of the anonymous objects lies a framed colour photo of a black man with a small child. The image is striking because it so unashamedly reveals its identity. It is the artist, with his daughter. The grey still life is surrounded by objects lying or standing, waiting for attention. Exposed, they stand out against the rest.

In the middle of the room, on the left, stands a collection of traditional wooden sculptures from Senegal. Their proud presence announces that they will not tolerate being wrapped in a horse blanket. They were not found on the street, Mbengue has collected them with tender, loving care. As a reminder of his native land? Unwillingly or unintentionally, they enter into a relationship with the rest. They give the packaged objects their own, sometimes heart-rending but always estranged dimension.

Oumar Mbengue’s work is about the post-modern immigrant. What has he left behind? What has he lost? What has replaced this? What new things and customs has he been able to pick up? To what extent has he used or abused his new surroundings? What leeway has he been given? How often has he been put in his place? How much respect has he been shown and how much has his self-respect suffered? ‘Lost and Found’ in the broadest sense of the word.

Rob Perrée