After the two previous blog posts about African sculptors, I thought it would be interesting to share a rare video of an African woodcarver at work. Two years ago the heirs of Karl-Heinz Krieg made a whole series of digitalised Super 8 films available online (which can be found here), including a incredible video of the Senufo carver Songuifolo Silué (c. 1914-1986) carving a wooden statue in 1978 in the village of Sirasso, Ivory Coast. The website doesn’t let me directly link to the video on Vimeo, but if you click on the link in the below box you’ll be able to view it.
Or you can just click here to view it. The confidence with which Silué handles his adze shows his genius as a wood carver, and it’s just incredible to witness the whole process from raw block of wood to the finished statue. The video of course is only from 1978, but one can assume there wouldn’t have been much difference with the sculpting process 100 years ago, or anywhere else in sub-Saharan Africa.
Some years ago, I took sculpting classes myself and I can assure you that, although Silué makes it look rather easy, the craftsmanship he displays only comes with years and years of practice. Once the statue is finished, we as well get to witness how it is given a patina: the red wood of the root of a certain tree is used to give the statue a first reddish layer (starting at minute 14), before being covered in a ferrous mud (minute 17) to give the statue its final blackish color. Videos like this only give you more respect for the creative geniuses that sculpted the art we love so much!
ps Karl-Heinz Krieg documented several other Senufo artists; you can learn about them here. Compliments to his heirs for making these valuable archives available online.