Monthly Archives: September 2011

Amina Mag Interviews Aïda Touré

photo by Tony Campbell

Aïda Touré, a Gabonese artist presents her creations to the American public.

She moved to New York in order to study music, a multidimensional artist, she published three collections of poetry. She recently had an exhibit at the Rio Penthouse Gallery in New York which was appreciated by the American public.

You moved to New York in 1995 to study music, how come you have opted to pursue painting?

my first passion was music, but I discovered that art concealed a vast universe. It is in this context that Sufi poetry and then painting suddenly were revealed to me, without having received any formal training. One day, in silence I was reading one of my poems and something happened: the verses of this poem turned into images of indescribable beauty; I got moved by their sublimity so this is how I started painting these images and that I labeled this art “Visual Sufi Poetry”. Later on I met Steve Adams, an artist from California, who observed my work and helped me understand precisely which equipment and materials to select in order to crystallize my art works. I had never planned to become a painter nor a poet, it just happened unexpectedly. I also am a music composer, my album will be released soon. I experience these arts as one reality that unfolds on different octaves and which reflects this incandescence that is present in us all.

Were you encouraged on this artistic career by your family?

It is thanks to the unconditional love of my parents, my brothers and sister that I was able to pursue my artistic aspirations. Without their presence, their sacrifices and support, I don’t think that I would have followed my inner voice in this way. Creative and spiritual activity can only manifest in stillness and peace, my parents did everything to create this peaceful environment in their household. Also the cultivation of wisdom, integrity, individuality and perseverance instilled by my father has played a decisive role along my journey. We all have innate capabilities that await to manifest yet it’s important that our environment nurtures this process instead of interfering with it. Encouraging the youth to express their full capabilities would contribute to the thriving of our continent.

How old were you when you painted your first piece, what did it represent?

I painted my first piece at 32, it was entitled “The Flamboyant”, it represented the cosmos, in its center was a divine attribute that exuded luminous rays. This painting is dear to me because it constantly reminds me of the unconventional aspect of my journey.

How does inspiration come to you?

my inspiration comes from Islam which is an inner state of being where the self humbly surrenders to its Divine Source. My paintings capture the movements inherent to the Sufi poetry I compose.

What is the particularity of your paintings?

my paintings celebrate the Sufi tradition, their themes revolve around the quest for the Divine, bliss as well as the total blossoming of the individual; they also are colored with my Malian and Gabonese cultures. Each painting is unique and possesses a universal sacred message to decipher. Actually my paintings are like mirrors that reflect who we are deep within. On my website visualsufipoetry.com, I explain the meaning each piece so that viewers may have a sense of the symbolism behind their conception.

You recently had an exhibit in New York, how did the public react to your paintings?

my exhibit “Inner Treasures” curated by Jose Reyes was an enriching experience for me. The audience was intrigued and very moved by this art and its origin. I got the chance to interact with people of all ages who could relate to the spiritual themes of the artwork and this beyond the differences in languages, religions and cultures. I marveled at the level of understanding art can create, it is a phenomenal experience!

You also are a poet and in your poem “Art in Islam” you refer to the virtues of prayer, what do you think of the medias who project Islam as a negative religion?

When it comes to the appreciation of religions, everything is a matter of perception, intelligence, interpretation, sensibility as well as research. I think that any form of information can be tainted, falsified, or misinterpreted so that the majority is conditioned to have an erroneous perception of specific phenomena. The stigmatization of Islam has been ongoing for centuries, it aims at maintaining an elite’s monopoly over the resources which normally belong to the planetary collectivity. Whereas Islam in its authentic form has always denounced elitism, exclusion, oppression, exploitation, it has always encouraged equality of all people, love, peace, justice, knowledge, respect for diversity and freedom of all. It is important to do research in as many fields as possible because knowledge illuminates, it allows us to make better choices based on what we truly know and not based on what is reported to us by the medias and other.

You paint women with graceful gestures, sumptuously dressed; does woman illuminate man?

I used to mostly paint abstract pieces and then two years ago I did the album cover for a jazz musician which was a painting with five African women holding instruments. During the conception of this painting, I saw my art evolve toward the celebration of the feminine principle through its original manifestation on earth, thus African. I then decided to conceive a series of paintings entitled “Luminous Dark Matter” that depicts graceful women sometimes in an ancient historical context. It was a way for me to celebrate, through my pen and brushes, the majestic octave of Africa which is oftentimes omitted from history. I also must stress that on my paintings, women symbolize the soul, therefore their sumptuousness evokes their spiritual essence that is transmitted through their progeny. It is the consciousness of this essence which illuminates not only men but all humanity as well.

Isn’t it difficult for an African artist to make it in the US where there are so many other talented artists?

I think it depends on the artist’s expectations as well as the specificity of her/his art. I believe that there is enough room for all artists wherever they are, with their different inspirations and forms of expression. We’ve been used to the culture of competition yet in a field like art whose true purpose is to uplift people, there shouldn’t be any competition. With the internet, the promotion of arts has become more accessible especially for independent artists whose innovative works defy conventional norm. I always encourage artists to have a web site/blog. African art is appreciated here, it is renown to have inspired movements like cubism for instance which actually comes from Gabon. Artists should dare to innovate and be fearless in honoring their own individual paths because when an artist has something truly unique and rare to express s/he must cease opportunities to share it with their fellow beings.

Do you have the sentiment that you are contributing to the promotion of African culture in the US?

yes I have this humble sentiment and even more so because Africa generates a particular interest in the fields of arts, fashion, history, natural medicine, spirituality. There is a real fascination for the immense potential that Africa possesses. As far as creativity is concerned, it is a universal experience where frontiers between people seem to dissolve; everybody just unites beyond the superficial considerations that can separate us. But considering that Africa is the cradle of mankind, isn’t it natural that it’s through her that we gather to reminisce over our common origin? It is in this paradigm that art created from an African perspective is essential.

What is your greatest wish?

in this world that is currently undergoing great upheavals, with the masses’ aspirations for more freedom, more equality, my greatest wish would be to see the institutions that govern the world finally align themselves with the authentic and urgent needs of humanity who is in constant evolution. It would be a great advent if the masses were more included in the shares of planetary resources. We already see that the old exploitative structures that interfere with the development of Africa are collapsing, these disharmonious systems must either vanish or adapt to the current reality that demands inclusion of the majority in the prosperity of nations.

Interview conducted by Ahmed Touré for Amina Magazine issue 495/July 2011.

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Filed under Gabon, Islam, social justice, Spiritual Art, Spirituality, Sufism, Visual Arts

Wangari Maathai~ 1940-2011

~Wangari Maathai~

You sang Nature is our wealth

while sowing the seeds of Peace,

now your essence is a dance

in the Fragrant Being~

Crowned with the golden leaves

from each tree you planted,

you are where beauties belong

and we, uplifted,

water the soil

you caressed with

all the love in your voice.

© 2011 Aïda Touré

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Filed under Save Africa, Spiritual Art, Sufi Poetry

Magazine Amina interview Aïda Touré

The English translation of this interview is here. You may click on the images to enlarge them. Thank you all for your support and the kind emails you send my way~ I’m going to reply to each one, inshAllah.

Amina magazine/Aida Toure interview

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Filed under Poesie Soufie, poesie visuelle, Spiritual Art, Spirituality, Sufism, Tasawwuf, Visual Arts

Alchemy of Colors

© 2011 Aïda Touré

A flash: my palette and paint tubes near my feet, a couple of brushstrokes’ motions envisioned, the smoothness of brush upon canvas and my heart tears open: in this state I can paint for what seems like hours, exploring nuances of the same or different colors, it is rapture~

I realized the alchemy of colors as a child, the healing property of each, their language, their secret keys and what they unlock when found. Colors are musical, they burst out of our interaction with the Sun, they constantly dance with the Star and once we understand them, we can work with them to celebrate the symphony of Life which is audible to those of fine feeling. I have seen colors being used to trigger angst in the viewer, many artists do this: they use art to sort of unload their negative emotions in it and when the viewer lays her/his eyes on the piece, the angst, the torment and depression of the artist is transmitted to her/him. I went to a museum long ago in NY and walked out discouraged to visit again, the majority of paintings by the great masters I saw conveyed this type of energy, the paleness and chaotic movements of colors suggest inner chaos, depression, angst, the very state they might have been in when conceiving the work. The audience who then receives the work also receives these energies, they absorb them.

I spoke about this before, and it is one of the reasons why I only look at artistic works that have a certain spiritual quality which shows regard for aesthetics and the inner harmony of the viewer. The effect of colors is extremely powerful, so their purpose is sacred to me. Depending on the way we use them they can enliven, uplift and stir the viewer to attune to one’s soul Paradise, they can deeply transform in that way or they can trigger the opposite in us~ so how great is the artists’ responsibility when s/he creates!

© 2011 Aïda Touré

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Aïda Touré: “the richness and advancement of civilizations always manifest through inspiration …”

I was recently interviewed by Tribune2lartiste, which is a web magazine about African cultures and arts. Below is the English translation of the interview.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Jean-Jacques Dikongué | Tribune2lartiste.com
When you have thoroughly uncovered her artistic world, heard her or read her words, there is the question of whether there is an area or topic that Aïda Touré would address without displaying such ease, lucidity, serenity and above all with so much humility as when she speaks of her activities for which I wanted to learn a little more. Discover and be seduced by this young woman whose depth is about the size of her talent.

Fine artist Aïda Touré

Who is Aïda Touré?

 

I am a Gabonese-Malian artist who lives in New York, I work in the field of sacred arts. I am the author of three books of Sufi poetry entitled “Unmanifest Poems”, “The Sublime Sphere” and “Nocturnal Light”. These books are studied in schools in the United States and Canada. I also am a painter, music composer and I conceived a jewelry line that actually carries miniature versions of my paintings. My works have been published on four continents.
When does the origin of creation was a matter of questioning for you?

 

From an early age, I wondered from whence came this immensity around us: the sky, oceans, stars, mountains, nature in general, all this spectacle fascinated and intrigued me.

Is it this intrigue of the creation that led you to paint?

 

This intrigue first led me to an introspection that was imperative because I had a certain detachment from worldly expectations, I did not experience them as priorities, they seemed totally alien and even oppressive to me. It is when I aligned myself with this contemplative disposition I have that I discovered my voice under different artistic activities based on spirituality.
“Visual Sufi Poetry”: Can you explain it?

 

“Visual Sufi Poetry” is the term I attribute to my art because it took form from the Sufi poetry I write. I was reading one of my poems one day and it inspired me imagery of indescribable beauty, so it is in this context that I started to paint without having received any formal training. So it is this Sufi poetry that my paintings portray. Sufism is the spiritual dimension of Islam, it calls for the quest of the Divine within self. This tradition of light, which is the essence of all religions, manifested initially in Kemet Africa and over the centuries, it spread in different cultures and nations through the message of the prophets (peace be upon them) and sages. Sufism is known for the sublime beauty of its expressions that celebrate love for the Divine. Sufi poetry to date is the most widely read poetry in the world, by its depth, it transcends all differences erected between men, it gathers us all in its essence, in unity.

 

Is there a link between your religion (Islam) and your work as a painter? If so, how does it translate?

 

My work as a painter blends with my experience of Islam which is an inner state where the self surrenders to its Divine Source. Creativity itself is an extension of this state because to fully live it out, you must know how to self-efface.

 

You are a singer, painter and poet? How do you manage to make live all three activities?

 

I am a composer of instrumental meditative music. Poetry, painting and music came to me naturally, so they breathe on their own, they are an expression of the same reality. They also reflect my love for harmony, beauty and wisdom.

 

Is it the same idea behind your work in the three arts you practice?

 

Yes these three arts unravel to express the same idea of rapture that is continuous, timeless; through my artistic activities, I aspire to honor it and to share it with my fellow beings because it emanates from this luminescence in us all that unites us in the same Source.

Do you think we can have the path that is yours by staying in Gabon, Mali, or even in Cameroon? Or should we necessarily get out of Africa and even leave France to grow artistically.

 

We are part of the same Universe, borders disappear when it comes to creativity. So it is not in itself the location of the artist that matters, but more so the awareness of his intrinsic identity that shines through his art. If the artist works on himself, cultivates love and masters his ego, this wonderful experience will be palpable through his art that will be unique, alive and incandescent. It is this inner work that is most important because in this context, opportunities to share one’s work come naturally to the artist wherever he is for beauty is universal, everyone recognizes it, appreciates it and invites it. I always advise artists to have a website or blog on the net and to exhibit their art, to share it despite the difficult conditions in which they might work, regardless of the indifference of the institutions that should support culture, do not be discouraged, rather these obstacles must be used to grow, to overcome and to transcend these structures that fail to respond to the real needs of the people. It is through creative expression that authentic value is created; the richness and advancement of civilizations always manifest through inspiration, through high ideas, therefore we must create, innovate and celebrate this process which has always had a particular intensity in Africa. Despite the systemic confiscation of its resources and the lack of development it causes, the Motherland still carries the spark of ingenuity; natural resources are not just material, they are also spiritual yet we must vehicle them so that that which has been taken from us by force returns to us through love; this is imperative for the future generations so they can freely benefit from these resources. This is one of the important purposes of artistic expression, so we must support and promote our culture for the empowerment of our progeny.

 

What is your view on the interest that is given to culture in some French-speaking African countries?

 

I think there is a sort of awakening, people are getting more and more interested in the richness of their ancestral culture that was demeaned by colonization, they fervently reclaim their rights to be free, to prosper, to be respected, they do not want to be treated as excluded citizens on their own land so they demand that the representatives of institutions harmonize with this momentum instead of attempting to suppress it. People are revolted by the confiscation of their resources, and even culturally this sentiment is increasingly expressed by African artists and it will intensify until there is real change.

 

What do you think of the attitude of the Senegalese authorities who continue to sequester the works of African artists who participated to Fesman 2010? (http://www.tribune2lartiste.com/?p=5689 )

 

I wasn’t aware of this situation but if it turns out that the works of artists who participated in the festival are really sequestered, I hope that they will be returned otherwise this could tarnish the prestige of the festival and the reputation of those who organize it. It would be a shame because this kind of initiative that celebrates the Black Arts should be encouraged.
What is your definition of success? Do you have it considering the recognition your work has received so far?

 

My perspective on success is somewhat unconventional because I evaluate it according to standards of timelessness. I am grateful for the attention my work has received but I will have a real sense of success only if over time these creations help to instill reverence for the divine spark in my fellow beings, this reverence which is denied to them by an inharmonious and unequal global system.

 

What is the formula to have in this business?

 

It takes a lot of patience, perseverance, devotion, no fear to innovate and to be oneself. It is equally important for an artist to learn about his rights and to enforce them by demanding fairer contracts that would allow him to benefit from future sales of any original artwork he ever sold. Over time the value of the artistic work increases therefore it generates greater revenues, the creator should also benefit from the increased value of his work in time.

 

Will you choose two of your paintings and comment them?

 

1-Amina-Disamu
This painting is part of a series entitled “Luminous Dark Matter” which celebrates the attributes of the feminine principle in its original manifestation on Earth, therefore African. “Amina~ Disamu” evokes the sacred role of the feminine principle in developed societies. In my work, the woman is a metaphor for the soul, so its lavish ornaments and clothes reflect the innate richness that we all possess as human beings that descend from the highest sphere of existence. On this painting, the grace of the subject shows that life is a natural resource with the capabilities that lie dormant in us, it is upon reverence for this life and encouragement of these capabilities that society blossoms. The subject on this painting exudes all the subtlety and gentle force that woman can hold, as physical manifestation of the soul, she is thus a vessel for divine attributes. Her Harp in this context symbolizes life that restores truth, love and justice on Earth.
2. On the Edge of the Union
 This painting shows the interaction between the feminine and the masculine principles, which when enlivened by Divine Love leads to unity and complete balance. On this piece, the right side reflects the male principle which looks after the sacred activity of the feminine principle to its left. When balance between the two principles is manifested, harmony triumphs and thus radiates in our environment as well. You see, all the chaos on Earth is due to the imbalance between these two principles that are present within ourselves and in all that exists. Only the complementarity of these two principles triggers the development of our innate capabilities.
We leave you the last word, and wish you to carry even higher the colors of Africa.
Thank you to Tribune2lartiste for giving a voice to artists from the continent, it is very important to support art and artists because through artistic creation, we converge with our fellow beings toward a reality which elevates us, which magnifies what we have been, what we are and what we will become through the total emancipation of future generations.
Website: http://visualsufipoetry.com
Contact: info@visualsufipoetry.com

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Filed under Gabon, Oil Painting, social justice, Spiritual Art, Spirituality, Sufi Poetry, Sufism, Tasawwuf, the prophets (as), Visual Arts

Ecstasy Dust

Bismillah,
you sprinkle my heart
with Ecstasy Dust
as I dance between
these golden words
to be with you,
to lay at your feet
as if before embodiment,
I long to be in your Presence~
Jewel of my soul,
O Joy of all joys,
you named me “Returning
so how could I escape it?
My palms burn with love
for there is no one to touch,
there is nothing to aspire for
but your Effulgence;
yesterday is present again,
you cup my cheeks
with your hands,
and I unravel in
the glory of Nothing,
your divine tenderness…

© 2011 Aïda Touré

Ecstasy Dust

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Untainted Love

Lit up Love… in progress © 2011 Aida Toure

“When faced with other human beings, we often have to resist, to assert ourselves so that we are not destroyed. But when we efface ourselves before God, we strengthen ourselves and grow.” ~Omraam

Humans and Love do not always interplay in a pleasant way, Love is and can flow through us only when we succeed in curbing the ego which majorly interferes with Love. When humans strive to polish their inner lives, they become like crystals that Love can shine through, when in this state it’s impossible to covet or to cause harm to anyone. Without this inner work, dealing with humans has always a dangerous element to it, there is a violent energy that is bred and cultivated in the interaction that becomes the very dynamic of the relationship; in this case it is not Love but domination  that guides the interaction and in time it is oppressive, poisonous. Sadly most relationships between humans function in this manner; the ego is inclined to stifle and devour the other whenever the opportunity presents itself; it completely ruins the initial beauty of relationships and causes pain.

One who reflects Love allows space for the other to be who s/he is and is concerned for the other well-being and what they could do for the other, it takes great surrender to love and to nurture the other, this is the disposition of the wise one, it takes another wise soul to be able to mirror it. That sort of self-effacement is mundanely associated with weakness, the pure beauty of humility, sensitivity and giving is often crushed by the worldly. To me it is like a resentment for Love itself, it is being destructive, and this destruction is not limited to the way humans treat one another, it’s also extended to the way they treat Nature, the oceans, and mostly children, how they prey on their minds to teach them domination so it is perpetuated when they become adults because without this energy of domination the current system of things can not survive. Therefore what comes to life between us in our interactions is reflected everywhere around us, be it Love or lack of Love, the latter is pretty much the norm which is unfortunate and unnatural.

Love is present in your life, awake to it, cherish it, rise always beyond the mainstream frequency, only this will reward your heart and make you rich for, greater loves will flock to you and this phenomenon will be unending… Love is extraordinarily divine! Bathe in it, taste it and spread it, fearlessly~

© 2011 Aïda Touré

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Filed under Inner Reality, Poesie Soufie, Spiritual Art, Spirituality, Sufi Prose