When I first arrived in Niger, everything was new and fantastic. However, there was very little in the way of museums, arts or culture. Don’t get me wrong, it exists but it is few and far between.
One day when I was driving around the neighborhood, I noticed something special at one of the shacks at the end of my street. Most of these little shacks sell goods like food, clothes, auto supplies or hair cuts; this shack sold paintings. The guy running the shop was not only the owner but the artist. I stopped by one day before Christmas to see if I could pick up some gifts for my family. There were some great paintings and one kept catching my eye but I really try not to buy myself stuff presents around Christmas. Just seems a little weird. I ended up buying my dad and step mom a painting and had a nice conversation with the artist, even if my French isn’t really that great.
After Christmas, I stopped by the shack again to say hi to the artist and introduce a new teacher from the school. He asked me to come by the next day because he had a gift for me. Surprised, I stopped by again the next day and he had what had to be a painting all covered with cardboard. He told me to open it when I got home and it was revealed to be the painting I was eyeing before Noel. Yeah, I met him once and he just gave me a painting which is sort of like food from his table. I was floored. It was then I realized that we were going to be friends.
After that I tried to look for ways I could be a friend rather than patron. First I learned the artist’s name: Boubacar. Next I noticed that each day he sits outside his shack and paints while sitting on a bench with the canvas balanced on his leg. Yes, that’s right, he painted with one hand holding the canvas and the other holding a brush. He needed and easel: problem solved.
And that’s how it all started. Since then I’ve sold a few of his paintings to friends in the U.S. and made postcards out of his work to get the word out about his art. I’ve also made a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/boubacardjiboartiste
Our friendship is one of my favorite things about living in Niger. Sometimes I just go hang out at his shack to chat and practice my French.