American artist Kehinde Wiley has opened the doors to Black Rock in Dakar Senegal, a multi-disciplinary artists residency program designed to bring together an international group of visual artists, writers, and filmmakers for a period of self-reflection, practice development and cultural exploration and cross-cultural collaboration. For Kehinde, who’s fame reached new heights with his portrait of Barack Obama, Black Rock is more than just a residency it is also home to his personal studio as he seeks to divide his time between New York and West Africa.
A decade in the making from the idea to opening its doors in May 2019, Black Rock introduces an immersive creative oasis to Dakar’s already thriving creative scene. Arranged in the form of a compound Black Rock consists of several buildings designed by Senegalese architect Abib Djenne and takes its name from its location in Yoff Virage village on a cliffside overlooking Yoff Bay and its black volcanic rocks. The architectural design is minimalistic drawing inspiration from nature and the environment so as not to overshadow its surroundings. The buildings are connected by a tropical garden filled with massive coconut palms, elephant ears, and Petra crotons; and also features a stone-wall fountain that trickles into a koi pond; and an infinity pool.
The outer walls are slate-grey, with a majestic set of sleek 20 foot tall doors made from Cameroonian Amazakoue wood leading you in at the front entrance and opening onto an interior with generously proportioned light-filled spaces. The interior space is configured to balance the need for interaction and privacy as and when needed. The main residence houses a gym, a spa, and a kitchen with a private chef.
For the interior design Kehinde collaborated with Senegalese textile designer Aissa Dione, and Fatiya Djenne, the architect’s daughter. Kehinde also collaborated with local designers and artists among them Sarah Diouf, founder of fashion brand Tongoro who designed the staff uniforms; artist Ousmane Gueye who created a custom-designed table using the local black volcanic rocks topped with a glass sheet; and artwork by local artists including Omar Victor Diop and Solly Cissé adorn the walls.
The residency accommodates up to three visiting artists at a time for period of between one-three months. Each artist is provided with their own three-story townhouse equipped with a fully stocked kitchen, a living room space for small gatherings, a bedroom with a private desk space, and two bathrooms. Their individual studios are close by. And whilst it would be easy to remain squirrelled away in the studio artists are encouraged to explore the city in a bid to facilitate introductions to local artists, artisans, and arts organizations.
The residency not only offers artists room, board, and individual studio space, excursions to local and regional sights such as as Goree Island are arranged, and a language tutor is provided to assist with learning Wolof, French, and English the three main languages spoken in Senegal.
Black Rock is just the start of Kehinde’s desire to support artists and adding Africa to the world’s roster of prestigious art residencies. Connecting to his Nigerian heritage Kehinde is also working with Ghanaian British architect Sir David Adjaye on a studio in Lagos.
For further information about Black Rock visit: https://blackrocksenegal.org/