Baboucarr Etu Ndow was born in 1966 and has become one of Gambia´s finest painters and sculptors, He was brought up in Bakau and attended Gambia Senior Secondary School.
He had always loved art and in the 1980s he started sharing his skills with children at Gunjur Senior Secondary school and at St Josephs´s High School, An ex student, Bai Bojang said “Baboucarr was a wonderful teacher and a good friend to the students. He inspired us with his talent and his enthusiasm for art.” In 1990 he co-founded the African Art Collection Centre in Bakau along with other local artists.
Baboucarr´s enthusiasm for art embraced many forms and in 1993 he founded a silk screening printing company. He was also very skilled in the art of batik and could often be seen wearing his own beautifully dyed shirts. In 1996 he went to Holland to study at the Art Academy in Kampen. He stayed there for 4 years and during that time his works were exhibited in Sweden and the UK as well as in Holland.
He returned to The Gambia in 2000 and worked for Gambian television, hosting an art programme for children. He was also producing his own work and teaching at both the French International School and the University of the Gambia where he lectured on artistic traditions.
He moved to Tujereng in 2001 and, initially in an attempt to save some of the local environment, he bought an adjoining plot covered in trees which has since become his Tunbung Art Village. This features traditional huts and buildings of a more individual style, all designed by Etu and constructed by him and his colleagues. This Art Village has been an inspiration to hundreds, if not thousands, of people of all ages who have been there to learn from Etu – painting, tie dye, batik, furniture making, screen printing and sculpture.
He has also produced several films about The Gambia and Africa. This unusually gifted man wanted to share his skills and enthusiasm with everyone – especially children. He believed passionately that you should let children learn to paint and create things as early in their lives as possible. His humility is one of the most striking things about him. He was more concerned with passing on his enthusiasm than in being a famous artist. He has worked tirelessly for his local community and also with other Gambian and international groups. He also worked as a volunteer teacher with St Joseph’s School for the Deaf in Kanifing.
There are permanent exhibitions of his work both in The Gambia and in Sierra Leone. His works have also been presented in over a dozen international countries and he has had more than 20 national exhibitions over the past 25 years.
In 2008 he won a place in a worldwide event, the Changchun International Sculpture Arts Exhibition and Symposium held in China where he was chosen to represent The Gambia and West Africa. There he produced a beautiful sculpture in marble entitled Spirit of Hope for which he won 3rd prize. There were over 40 internationally renowned artists, 8 of them from Africa, and he was proud to display the Gambian flag next to his award winning sculpture.
Despite his international reputation, Etu was never happier than when in his beloved Art Village, covered in paint, either producing his own work or teaching others to find their talents. He died suddenly on 23rd March this year and will be sadly missed by all who knew him. His talent and hard work were matched by his kind, loving and generous personality. The Gambia has lost one of its finest sons.
A fellow Gambian artist admired and respected by Etu, Suelle Nachif, said: “The dynamics of Etu come from the deepest of his extremely kind, loving and humble soul. To give, to share, to bring out, to manifest and to actualise all that always poured forth … Integral in his reality with many a moment of creative expression that stretched into endless expansive possibilities, like a fleeting stroke of his brush he touched and added colour to everyone who came close to him. Born again, each infant, untouched by time or space, goes far beyond the reach of any sacrifice of life or death. Each and every one of us truly knows him as a gift. Eternally, dear friend. Suelle.”
The legacy of Etu´s art will go on and be an inspiration for years to come. His most recent techniques are being exhibited at Gaya Art Café at the moment but will be returning to Tunbung Art Village later this year. The Art Village will continue to operate as before with Etu´s nephew, Abdoulie Coker, a fellow artist who was trained by Etu and who has worked alongside him for the last 10 years. Any group wanting a workshop will be very welcome. To arrange a workshop, please contact (+220) 3524875 or 6524875.