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{UAH} Khadija Saye: rising 24 year-old Gambian artist loses life in Grenfell fire

Khadija Saye: rising 24 year-old Gambian artist loses life in Grenfell fire

By on June 20, 2017 — The Grenfell Tower fire is definitely a tragedy, which has taken the lives of many people including emerging and talented Gambian artist Khadija Saye. The tragedy has claimed 79 people so far, among them Khadija and her mother who lived on the 20th floor of the building. Khadija's work is currently exhibited at the Venice Biennale and had attracted a number of top gallery directors. Her death at the age of 24 is a painful loss considering how she portrayed the Wolof culture in her works.

Khadija Saye, a Gambian photographer whose works are on display in the Venice Biennale was among those said to have lost her life to the Grenfell Tower fire. Photo: Twitter/NicolaGreenArt

The Grenfell Tower fire is a tragedy, which has taken the lives of many people including emerging and talented Gambian artist Khadija Saye. The tragedy has claimed 79 people so far, among them Khadija  and her mother who lived on the 20th floor of the building, it's likely more missing persons will be reported.

Khadija had just successfully had her work exhibited at the Venice Biennale, and on May 10 had posted on Facebook, "It's been a real journey, tears shed, highs and lows, but mama, I'm an artist exhibiting at the Venice Biennale and the blessings are abundant!"

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Unfortunately this journey was cut off without Saye living to see the fruits of her dreams. The blessings, which she and her mother were to partake of didn't get to any of them. Her humble beginnings and years of struggle didn't stop her from producing her remarkable art.

An influential gallery director had shown interest in her work and wanted to meet her at her studio. But the house she lived in with her mother on the 20th floor was both her home and studio. As a young emerging artist, turning her house which she shared with her mother to a studio was probably the normal thing to do.

Early last year it was evident that working from home was probably not convenient for her and she probably did it out of lack of choice than anything else. She'd requested via Facebook for help in looking for a studio to sub-let from Feb/March to the end of August.

The photographer whose dreams was coming to reality and was being invited to showcase her work in various galleries suddenly found herself in a burning building, and her last message to the world through Facebook was "please pray for me."

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Saye's works in the Venice Biennale art fair Dwelling: In This Space We Breathe is currently on display as part of the Diaspora Pavilion being shown until November 26. Late last year Saye won the competition to be exhibited at the Biennale and mentored by artist Almudena Romero. The Pavilion itself has been conceived and curated by David A. Bailey and Jessica Taylor as a "coming-together of nineteen artists whose practices in many ways expand, complicate and even destabilise diaspora as term".

Saye who draws from her Gambian origin in creating her work said on her website, "Dwelling: In This Space We Breath is a series of wet plate collodion tintypes that explores the migration of traditional Gambian spiritual practices and the deep rooted urge to find solace within a higher power. This series of tintypes were produced with artist, Almudena Romero."

The art world has been thrown into mourning. The future promises Saye held were enormous and abundant. Her loss will dwell with us for a long time and so will her works.

Gwokto La'Kitgum
"Even a small dog can piss on a tall building" Jim Hightower

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