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From Direct Carving to Récupération: The Art of Moustapha Dimé in Post-Independence Senegal 1974-1997

Kart, Susan

Moustapha Dimé (1952-1998) is one of Senegal's most well known sculptors of the late 20th century. Despite his local and international clout, Dimé remains an enigmatic figure in art historical discourse. Documentation of his early years (prior to 1990) and the sculptures he achieved during this time is perfunctory. Despite more numerous publications on his works dating from the early nineties until his death, this dissertation is the first critical analysis of the artist and his contributions to post-colonial art and scholarship in Senegal. Over the course of a sustained professional career, Dimé engaged with multiple aspects of the practice of sculpture. He apprenticed with street carvers and furniture makers and then enrolled at the Centre de Formation Artisanale in Dakar to study woodworking. He subsequently attended the École Nationale des Beaux Arts in Senegal. By the time he reached middle age, Dimé was working in a style known in Senegal as récupération - in which found and acquired objects are assembled into a finished sculpture. Most often, scholars view Dimé's récupération works as a definitive rupture with his early carved work. This is one interpretation I challenge in this dissertation. Analysis of archival material reveals that Dimé's récupération works, while a departure from carving, were not a rejection of his earlier styles. Rather, I present evidence to suggest that Dimé arrived at récupération through a sustained investigation of sculptural methodology over the course of his career. In assessing the entirety of Dimé's oeuvre, one finds a continuous exploration of the concepts of identity, aesthetics, and spirituality as these are inscribed onto the sculpted form. Interpreted thus, Dimé's sculptures define a much more calculated approach to material and to the meaning of sculpture in post-colonial Senegal than has been previously understood.

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Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Thesis Advisors
Strother, Zoe
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
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