Madame Bitèye is a successful grain entrepreneur who additionally plays a significant social role as Badienou Gokh: godmother of her neighborhood, providing financial and health support especially to women.
Madame Kane is a longtime activist and schoolteacher instrumental in breaking the “supporting role” logic of women in politics by training women to generate their own income and to themselves become local elected officials.
Originally created for the United Nations in 2015, Be’s Empowering Women series highlights the strength and tenacity of women in Senegal through personal stories of perseverance, pride, and power. Each woman chose how to present herself—often in gold jewelry—and shared their personal experiences. Madame Aïdara owns an artisanal soap-making company, employing over 40 women.
Not smiling or faltering, these protagonists challenge the camera with looks of steadfast determination, questioning mainstream media portrayals of Africans and the underlying assumptions that come with them.
There is often a gap between what we see and what we feel; between how we appear to others and how we see ourselves. Similarly, gold is more than meets the eye. In this collaborative project, architect-photographer Alun Be and artist-fashion designer Selly Raby Kane teach us to look past the shine of gold’s surface value to get at the personal stories that lie beneath.
The Life of Gold draws from collective memory and urban creativity to shape an imagined future. Kane created both ensembles to articulate how it feels to yourself be as precious and culturally embedded as gold jewelry is in Senegal. Kane and Be take this idea further and imagine gold itself as a lifeform that shapes the city of Dakar, where they live and work. A futuristic creature of gold leans toward a woman in a golden brocade jacket and gold jewelry who looks to this luminescent figure, while crouching within a starkly contrasting cement block background—what can often be the crumbling facades of daily city life. The contrasts echo the contradictions of personal experience, reminding us that dressing up can help us forget life’s difficulties and remember our own potential to be “as good as gold.”
Listen to the artists and the curator talk about The Life of Gold in the below videos.