Ibou Ndoye: The spirit and the man

8 February - 9 April 2021

Glass-painting artist Ibou Ibrahima Ndoye has combined modernism and traditionalism to create a style unique to himself. Ibrahima, commonly known as "Ibou," as a young child, was regularly surrounded by colorful African textiles and fabrics.  It is not surprising that Ibou says he "socialized with art and cohabited with colors" from a very young age.

Ibou began his career as a painter in the late 1980s during a period in his native Senegal called the "Set Setal," or clean-up movement. The movement encouraged artists to embellish the environment by expressing themselves through murals on buildings and walls. It was during this time that he painted several murals in the suburban city of Pikine. Some of Ibou’s murals were selected to appear in a French-produced documentary in 1990.

Eventually, Ibou’s interests changed. Following a tradition brought from the Middle East to Senegal one hundred years prior, Ibou entered and renovated the world of glass painting. When the technique was first introduced to the Senegalese, the subject matter was predominated by religious scenes – i.e., Abraham’s sacrifice, Noah’s Ark, Mary and Jesus. It wasn’t until after Senegal gained its independence from its French colonizers (1960) that glass painting expanded in new directions. However, through the 1980s only those holding degrees in fine art dared to play with the century-old tradition. These initial innovators tended to create images in such a way that the traditional style was barely recognizable through their abstractions.

It was in the early 90s that a third wave of glass painters surfaced in Dakar. People, including Ibou, began to look back at the traditional style of their predecessors with a new inspiration. Instead of painting traditional African scenes on clean sheets of regularly shaped glass, Ibou started breaking and layering the glass to create new textures and effects. The incorporation of various other materials, including copper wire, broken bottles, wood, bone, and animal skin began to appear in Ibou’s work as well. Later in his life, upon relocating to America, he took one step further by mixing glass with plastics and other materials common to our modern environment. It is not unusual to find him stapling scraps of soda cans and detergent boxes onto vibrantly painted CD cases portraying images of African women carrying jugs of water above their heads. As the times changed, so did Ibou’s work, creating a new style from an old tradition.

In the late 90s, Ibou began exhibiting his work around Africa and Europe in local and internationally touring shows. The Biannual of African Art hosted in Dakar regularly accepts Ibou’s work for exhibition in a show titled "The Salon of Glass Painting." In 1999, he expanded his involvement in Senegal’s art scene when he started running glass painting workshops at the El Hadji Doudou Mbath Primary School, and later at the Dakar YMCA.

In 2001, Ibou found himself on his way to join a friend in New England. For several months, he taught painting classes at Allen Special Needs Camp for the disabled in Bedford, New Hampshire. Later that year, Ibou moved to Rhode Island where he acted as an art instructor for a program titled "Kids at Risk" run by the Urban Collaborative Accelerated Program (UCAP). Ibou also appeared as a guest speaker on the Cox Television production "Cultural Tapestry."

Ibou presently resides in Jersey City, N.J., and regularly exhibits his art both locally and internationally in addition to holding glass painting workshops at libraries and schools. He continues to promote and expand his artistic vision through exhibitions, education and global cultural exchanges.