Turning a village into an art gallery.
When talking about graffiti and street arts, we never think about Africa but there are places here that will leave you speech-less. Did you know that the rural villages in The Gambia have become an international graffiti phenomenon featuring artworks from some of the world’s best street artists?
From the landscape point of view, The Gambia is very particular. I mean, compared with other African countries, it doesn’t really have so much to offer; if you’ll forgive me for saying so. However, it has been building things to attract tourists and this, was why I visited the country a couple of times.
Before leaving for The Gambia, my online research led me to the street art in Kubuneh village that I absolutely didn’t want to miss. In fact, as soon as I was in my hotel in the Senegambia area, I travelled to Kubuneh by yellow taxi. I should have taken the Green taxi, a service specifically dedicated to tourists; it should have cost 800 dalasi for a small car. I instead ended up spending more with the yellow one. (That is a long story). Anyways, if you are in the Gambia, you are probably going to visit the Makasutu cultural forest, so you can combine Kubuneh with it. During the high season times, there are also river excursions that take you to Kubuneh from the Makasutu Cultural Forest.
To give you a little bit of history, the street art project in Kubuneh was conceived by Lawrence Williams, a Gambian-based British lodge owner (Mandina Lodge) and the local artist Njogu Touray. They formed an artistic collective called the Bush Dwellers and began working with stencils and large canvasses in the villages around Williams’ lodge. It was initially meant to interact with the surrounding communities and inspire tourism. But soon after, the idea emerged to transform the entire village of Kubuneh into a living art installation that would generate income for the community and guarantee its future. Once they received the consent from the village elders, in 2011, eight of the world’s leading street artists from the U.K. Belgium, Israel, and the U.S. swapped their urban canvasses for the mud and concrete of Kubuneh. Within a few weeks, the group transformed the village into an art gallery: Wide Open Walls Conservation Project. Without neglecting the natural environment, they decorated homes, schools, and trees with murals of peace, community, and wildlife.
And there you go, this is how Kubuneh village, quite far away from the chaotic beach area, turned into a tourist destination. The result in fact was remarkable. If you are a nature lover and you like to get off the beaten track then Kubuneh is the best place for you to stay. Here you can enjoy bird-waching, fishing in the River Gambia or just getting into the bush and mangrooves.
Since years and years have passed I must say that I found the paintings on the mud buildings slightly ruined; I think they need a bit of retouching. But nevertheless, Kubuneh remains attractive. I’m happy that Lawrence has been able to give a long term economic income to this poor village but I hope that his efforts don’t end here. I also hope that these artworks in Kubuneh village are retouched before my next visit the Gambia. (Kubuneh Photo Gallery)