The Musée de la Femme "Henriette Bathily" in Goree, Senegal is the first museum of its kind in Africa. It will tell you all about the place and role of Senegalese women in the community, in rituals and in popular and traditional arts.

Discover the riches to be found here...
The Musée de la Femme "Henriette Bathily" in Goree, Senegal is the first museum of its kind in Africa. It will tell you all about the place and role of Senegalese women in the community, in rituals and in popular and traditional arts.

Discover the riches to be found here...

©1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Museum

The Musée de la Femme "Henriette Bathily" in Goree, Senegal

Musée de la Femme "Henriette Bathily"
Canadian Heritage Information Network

© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


The Consortium de Communications Audiovisuelles en Afrique (CCA) believed that museums were places for multifaceted communication about the reference objects of civilization. It wanted to make a contribution to the defence, illustration, preservation, promotion and dissemination of Senegal’s cultural heritage and thus took the initiative to establish a Senegalese women’s museum. The CCA named the museum after Henriette Bathily, a well-known communicator and figure in the world of culture.

Annette Mbaye d’Erneville, Director of the CCA, Adama Cissé Wélé and the filmmaker Ousmane William Mbaye, supported by the Senegalese government, the Embassy of Canada and a number of Senegalese, African and foreign partner organizations helped to make the Musée de la Femme "Henriette Bathily" a reality. It is the first museum of its kind in Africa

Located on the island of Gorée, at the corner of Saint-Germain and Malavois Streets, the Musée de la Femme "Henriette Bathily" has occupied a house built in 1777 by a rich "signare", Victoria Albis, since its inauguration on June 17, 1994.

The main purpose of the Musée de Read More
The Consortium de Communications Audiovisuelles en Afrique (CCA) believed that museums were places for multifaceted communication about the reference objects of civilization. It wanted to make a contribution to the defence, illustration, preservation, promotion and dissemination of Senegal’s cultural heritage and thus took the initiative to establish a Senegalese women’s museum. The CCA named the museum after Henriette Bathily, a well-known communicator and figure in the world of culture.

Annette Mbaye d’Erneville, Director of the CCA, Adama Cissé Wélé and the filmmaker Ousmane William Mbaye, supported by the Senegalese government, the Embassy of Canada and a number of Senegalese, African and foreign partner organizations helped to make the Musée de la Femme "Henriette Bathily" a reality. It is the first museum of its kind in Africa

Located on the island of Gorée, at the corner of Saint-Germain and Malavois Streets, the Musée de la Femme "Henriette Bathily" has occupied a house built in 1777 by a rich "signare", Victoria Albis, since its inauguration on June 17, 1994.

The main purpose of the Musée de la Femme "Henriette Bathily" is to promote interest at home and abroad in the way Senegalese society is organized and to make Senegal better known through the role that Senegalese women play in the community, in rituals and in popular and traditional art.

The museum is organized around five exhibition halls that display objects by means of which visitors can delve into the diverse reality of the domestic, political, cultural and religious lives of Senegalese women.

The museum has an audiovisual room, a boutique, a garden cafe and soon an "Espace Culturel et Artisanat" (E.C.A.) that will enable groups of women from all regions and ethnic backgrounds to work at the museum and demonstrate their wide knowledge to visitors. The E.C.A. will also provide women with education and training in literacy, civil education, environmental conservation and health education and help them to learn handicraft techniques. Also in the planning stage is a documentation and specialized library service that is intended to provide a public databank and make the museum a genuine research centre.

The Senegal Musée de la Femme is an educational and cultural organization that must also strive to become a socio-economic agency serving both as a communications focus and a centre of activity that will generate income for women.

© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

"We have to paint things about Senegal, about life here, about our customs and the way we dress. People from Mali have to draw what they find in Mali and it is the same case for Togo. I do not want to go beyond our border. French paintings, Napoleon, chateaux, those aren’t Senegalese things", said glass painter Gora Mbengue as reported by Michel Renaudeau and Michèle Strobel (1984) in "Peinture sous verre du Sénégal" (Glass Painting in Senegal).

Glass painting is also called glass pictures (or "souwère" in Wolof) because the medium of this work is glass. The paintings are done on the glass itself but are viewed against the light, through the glass and under the glass.

This painting technique originated in the East and appeared in Senegal with the arrival of Islam. It soon developed in old communities like Saint Louis, Rufisque and Dakar before moving on to all the urban centres that have the materials artists need to produce their works: glass, India ink, paint, brushes, solvent or thinner, cardboard and adhesive paper.
"We have to paint things about Senegal, about life here, about our customs and the way we dress. People from Mali have to draw what they find in Mali and it is the same case for Togo. I do not want to go beyond our border. French paintings, Napoleon, chateaux, those aren’t Senegalese things", said glass painter Gora Mbengue as reported by Michel Renaudeau and Michèle Strobel (1984) in "Peinture sous verre du Sénégal" (Glass Painting in Senegal).

Glass painting is also called glass pictures (or "souwère" in Wolof) because the medium of this work is glass. The paintings are done on the glass itself but are viewed against the light, through the glass and under the glass.

This painting technique originated in the East and appeared in Senegal with the arrival of Islam. It soon developed in old communities like Saint Louis, Rufisque and Dakar before moving on to all the urban centres that have the materials artists need to produce their works: glass, India ink, paint, brushes, solvent or thinner, cardboard and adhesive paper.

© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

A two- to three-millimetre thick piece of glass is first cleaned.

The drawing is made directly on the glass with pen and India ink. Some artists use very fine brushes and black paint. The drawing may be done from imagination or transferred from a sketch.

Signatures and captions are written on the back (mirror writing) because the glass is displayed in reverse. It should be noted that the first "souwériste" painters neither signed nor dated their work.

Then the paint is applied. In contrast to classical painting technique, glass painting starts with the detail and ends with the background. Because the painting is seen "under glass", the details will appear on the surface and are thus must be the first to be painted. Oil paints thinned with solvent or synthetic thinner are used.

After being dried in the shade, paintings then are placed on a cardboard background on which several cotton strands are wound and then looped to form hangers. The cardboard is cut to the same dimensions as the glass and is attached with a strip of double-sided adhesive paper that sticks to the edges of the glass and the edges of the cardboard at Read More
A two- to three-millimetre thick piece of glass is first cleaned.

The drawing is made directly on the glass with pen and India ink. Some artists use very fine brushes and black paint. The drawing may be done from imagination or transferred from a sketch.

Signatures and captions are written on the back (mirror writing) because the glass is displayed in reverse. It should be noted that the first "souwériste" painters neither signed nor dated their work.

Then the paint is applied. In contrast to classical painting technique, glass painting starts with the detail and ends with the background. Because the painting is seen "under glass", the details will appear on the surface and are thus must be the first to be painted. Oil paints thinned with solvent or synthetic thinner are used.

After being dried in the shade, paintings then are placed on a cardboard background on which several cotton strands are wound and then looped to form hangers. The cardboard is cut to the same dimensions as the glass and is attached with a strip of double-sided adhesive paper that sticks to the edges of the glass and the edges of the cardboard at the same time.

© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

The traditional subjects of glass painters are of Muslim origin and represent religious subjects (Noah’s ark, Adam and Eve, the sacrifice of Abraham...) and religious heads and founders of brotherhoods (Sheik Amadou Bamba, El Hadj Malick Sy, Saydina Issa Laya...).

Painters also illustrate popular stories like the traditional ones transmitted orally by "griots" (lion hunts, the punishment of the bad husband, genies...).

Also depicted are scenes of everyday life sketched simply in a naive style (a mother nursing her baby, a boxing match, a Koranic school, a thief caught by a policeman, AIDS, polygamy...).

Portraits of women, families and couples in their best outfits also feature in glass pictures.

Some glass pictures are only for decoration (wild or domestic animals, multicoloured birds, flowers...).

For some years now, glass pictures have hung in many houses, introducing artistic and decorative touches and conveying simple messages in an educational, humorous or satiric way within the family about aspects of daily life. These naive representations recall the images of Epinal in France.

The tourist in Read More
The traditional subjects of glass painters are of Muslim origin and represent religious subjects (Noah’s ark, Adam and Eve, the sacrifice of Abraham...) and religious heads and founders of brotherhoods (Sheik Amadou Bamba, El Hadj Malick Sy, Saydina Issa Laya...).

Painters also illustrate popular stories like the traditional ones transmitted orally by "griots" (lion hunts, the punishment of the bad husband, genies...).

Also depicted are scenes of everyday life sketched simply in a naive style (a mother nursing her baby, a boxing match, a Koranic school, a thief caught by a policeman, AIDS, polygamy...).

Portraits of women, families and couples in their best outfits also feature in glass pictures.

Some glass pictures are only for decoration (wild or domestic animals, multicoloured birds, flowers...).

For some years now, glass pictures have hung in many houses, introducing artistic and decorative touches and conveying simple messages in an educational, humorous or satiric way within the family about aspects of daily life. These naive representations recall the images of Epinal in France.

The tourist interest in glass pictures has certainly promoted the dissemination of this art form outside Senegal but it has also contributed to a shift in themes: Western and Japanese cartoon strip heroes, non-figurative works and so on. This artistic revival using subjects from popular imagery is flourishing today in the streets and sidewalks of Senegal’s cities.

© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • describe The Musée de la Femme "Henriette Bathily" , Senegal and its glass painting collection;
  • describe the technique of glass painting and traditional themes;
  • describe the role of glass painting in Senegal’s culture;
  • describe the history of glass painting in Senegal.

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