While freshly back from his NY solo show at Brooklynite Gallery, Eelus is busy curating another big project called Wide Open Walls (W.O.W.) which comprises 1000 cans of paint, 8 artists, 2 weeks, 1 Village in Gambia, Africa.
Butterfly met up with Eelus to discuss about this promising Art Safari. Here is the interview:
Butterfly: You are now curating a project called Wide Open Walls. Can you tell us more about it?
Eelus: Wide Open Walls is a new and hopefully annual arts project based in The Gambia and thought up by Lawrence Williams who is one of the founders of the Makasutu Culture Forest and Ballabu Conservation Area out there in the Gambia. An enormous area of forest that thanks to Lawrence and his business partner and Uncle James English is now protected from deforestation. The projects also incorporate 14 villages and 100,000 people and the aim is to help eliminate poverty through sustainable tourism.
So with these goals in mind, Lawrence thought of a way to mix his love of the forest and Gambian culture with his other passion, street art. He’s already been painting in and around the local villages out there for some time as part of his Gambian street art collective known as Bushdwellers, and he follows the rest of the scene pretty closely from over there. So he contacted me and asked if I’d like to spend 2 weeks with him painting in The Gambia with the idea of hopefully encouraging tourism into villages of the Ballabu to help with their sustainability. I was on board immediately. From there he asked me to step into the role of curator, which with slightly nervous and shaky steps I did, and we now have a team of 8 artists including myself, all ready to fly out there to transform the village of Kubuneh into a huge open air work of art.
B: Who are the participating artists and how did you go about selecting them?
E: We have an incredible team assembled consisting of Broken Crow, Logan Hicks, Lucy McLauchlan, Eine, Xenz, Mysterious Al and myself. We also have photographer Ian Cox of Wallkandy coming along to help document everything. The artists were chosen because their styles are all so different from one another but will all fit this challenging environment really well. Plus they’re all really cool, down to Earth people which is important seeing as though we’re going to be together for the best part of 2 weeks. The project is going to be challenging and interesting enough without the hassles of ego’s to contend with.
B: You’ve aleady done some big murals projects, but how do you prepare for this trip? Have you been practising using different type of materials?
E: I’ve been so busy with the planning and preparation for the project that I’ve only just started to get my own work together, 7 days before I leave! I’m planning to produce a lot of work while I’m out there though to make sure it’s site specific and created especially for certain areas. It’s going to be really nice working on a project that doesn’t have the pressures of a gallery hanging over it and I’m looking forward to approaching it with a more relaxed and experimental attitude. But this doesn’t mean I wont be putting everything I can into the new work, there’s still a huge responsibility there as this village is home to a lot of people who will have to live with the work after we’re gone. Knowing that the villagers and tribal chiefs are behind the project takes a lot of weight off out shoulders though.
Sneak preview of one the new piece Eelus is going to paint while in Kubuneh.
B: It must be a challenge in terms of logistics, flying over artists from different countries, but also getting the paint material there. What are your main challenges?
E: Luckily for me, Lawrence has been dealing with that side of things. I know for him it’s been a challenge trying to bring everyone together at the same time, from different countries and to a budget. But luckily we’ve had some amazing backing from some great companies like Sabotaz who have supplied and shipped all the paint and The Gambia Experience who donated some of the artists flights.
The key to this project is preparation. The last thing we need to happen whilst we’re out there is to run out of anything, it’s not like we can just nip round to an arts supply store if we get stuck. But I’m pretty confident we’ve got everything covered, if problems do raise their head we’re luckily dealing with a very experienced and professional team of artists who I know will be able to rise to the challenge.
B: You are also involving local kids in the project through workshops.
E: Yes, another very important part of the project. Art isn’t taught as a subject in the schools over there so we’re hoping to get the kids involved through workshops, allowing a level of self expression that they may not be used to or familiar with. I’ve done the odd workshop before with kids of various ages and it’s going to be really interesting to compare the work produced by the Gambian kids and see how their lives and environment, drastically different to ours, has an effect on their creativity.
B: How do you see this project elvolve?
E: We’re in the process of turning W.O.W into a charity that will hopefully continue on a yearly basis from now on. There are a lot of villages in The Gambia and a lot of wall space so there’s so much we can do. I think the important thing for us is to concentrate on year 1, learn as much as we can and then take that knowledge and improve on it for year 2, year 3 and so on. We have a lot of ideas but for now you’ll just have to stay tuned and watch this space.
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