Enfant balais – Totem Variation (2019)
rope, broom from Senegal, various materials
circa 200 x 150 x 150 cm
unique, 3 versions
Photo : Hugard & Vanoverschelde
The two works by Mehdi-Georges Lahlou, the Enfants balais, symbolize a stolen childhood. They are a tribute to all children whose existence was swept away, or whose innocence was stolen, or those deprived of liberty as their lives are threatened. The idea for these two sculptures came during the artist’s stay in Senegal. While in residence at the Institut Français in Saint-Louis, the artist learned of the existence of the talibé boys, these poor young children from the Dakar region who are forced to beg by Koranic establishments, or else be put out on the streets. Touched by their stories, the artist pays homage to these exploited children by elevating them to the rank of totemic figures, like the sacred sculptures in traditional African religions. The Enfants balais, standing on a piece of pavement taken from the street, is made of rope and traditional brooms constructed from natural plant fibers. By using “poor” materials, pejoratively associated with African art, Mehdi-Georges Lahlou deconstructs the stereotypes associated with African artmaking. The broom no longer appears as a simple instrument associated with household cleaning, but becomes a tool of protest against the inequality these children suffer.
Text by Rehane Ameur