Jiguene Si Walouwâye
(Women at the Milling Place)
18 x 25”, Digital Print on archival paper
Signed & Numbered Limited Edition of 30
©2016 Djibril N’Doye
For a very long time in Africa, woodcarvers made most of what’s needed in the household. Most utensils were made by woodcarvers. Serving bowls, serving spoons, and the mortar and pestle.
Corn flour and millet flour are part of the everyday meal. With many hands, work is done faster.
In a traditional house, there is a place where women gather for grinding grain and that place is called “walouwâye”. The milling may belong to one person or more, or is for preparing a big upcoming event. Walouwâye is also a socializing place when milling each other’s grain is done and appreciated. It is a social bridge where trust and friendship are woven. Those getting the milling will be part of the next milling event. Working together is a metaphor in practice that life is more than a two-way street. Now privately-owned electric mills have become a local business. Women, after walking a long distance, pay for the milling out of convenience. The soulfulness and the communal spirit are disappearing, and ‘modernism’ is changing the way of life. Communal living is disappearing – giving a place to a form of individualism. I wonder if the fast pace of life is making it hard for people to see the change which is like a silent social erosion.
Once I entered an antique gallery in Arizona and saw African hand-carved mortars and pestles on display as antique utensils. I always ask myself what about the spirituality of the flour making process and the joy which inspired me to capture the moment like walouwâye.
To help my mother, my brothers and I worked on walouwâye and it has made a big difference when I draw the subject. It is hard for me to feel the same about the electric mill where grain goes one way and the flour exits the machine the other way. The visual and artistic value of communal living has given to writers and artists for so many years what the electric mill can never give.