Interview with Barry Ahmad Talib

+Interview for Het Bos, 2021

Since 2019 Jozef Wouters has shared his Decoratelier in Brussels with Barry Ahmad Talib, an artist from Sagale (Guinee-Conakry). During the long winter months, they cut thousands of leaves out of fabric for Barry’s tree sculptures. Out of those sessions, they weave a tissue of stories and sounds, and eventually, a show. 

During the quiet end of 2020, Het Bos welcomed a new installation of more than forty small and larger colorful trees, shrubs and flowers in the stairwell that connects concert
hall, bar, exhibition space and the Boslabs studio. As you walk up and down the stairs of Het Bos, you see a sea of colorful leaves and branches to the side, above and below. A lone blue tree stands in the abandoned patio of the Bosbar.
They are made of wood with leaves hand-cut from reclaimed expo carpet by Barry Ahmad Talib. He gave them the name “Kapituhan” which means as much as “a small
forest in which you could live.”
Since his childhood, Barry has been fascinated by unique écriture (writing): the ability of letters to shape a front door, a T-shirt or a wall. In French and Arabic, he enjoys playing with letters, shapes and images. 'There is no such thing as wrong writing, mistakes are part of the work.' The relentless attempt to create and give an original voice to people and things typifies Barry's work.
His first works in Guinea-Conacry were commissioned by the local soccer team, the mosque and private clients. His hand-painted walls, T-shirts and objects in the streets
were the best form of advertising and proved to his family that he could make creativity a job and a source of income. "Que tout est possible."

"It is the work itself that shows me the way.”

Even when, after a long journey from Guinea to Italy and via Germany, he ended up at ‘het Klein Kasteeltje’ in Brussels. When Madame Phara saw his handmade T-shirts with an image of het Klein Kasteeltje she put Barry in touch with Globe Aroma, where Decoratelier was working on a project at the time. A group of women and men worked together on a weekly basis in 2019 to build Underneath Which Rivers Flow, a secret garden of stories and dreams where the set elements themselves are the actors of the play. In that garden, Barry immediately found his niche. It was there that he learned about the nail gun. "Quand je lui dis de fixer, il fixe..."
“Decoratelier reminds me of my years in Guinea when I had a kiosk next to my employer Orange-Afrique's cell phone antenna. I was able to tap into the electricity there, which made my kiosk a place where young people would gather to listen to music, charge their cell phones and feel free.” Even in his studio, a few meters away, he was always surrounded by young people. His workplace was a small grove in the middle of an open plain. Kapituhan. There, in the shade of a few trees and hidden behind a thicket, Barry worked on orders for designs he received from the city. 
Independence, curiosity and entrepreneurial spirit are the common threads through Barry’s life, and materials, tools and stubborn patience are his instruments. “I never work with a ruler or a preliminary design on paper, but am guided by the material and tools at hand.”
The thoroughbred autodidact derives joy from not wasting material. The technique and form of the work are determined by the material itself. How can you cut thousands of petals from a roll of carpet without wasting an inch of fabric? I ask him if the choice of flowers, trees, plants and shrubs is a conscious homage to the living organisms that give us oxygen. “Mankind has a bad character when it comes to its relation with nature. There is more and more dust in the air. In the three years that I've been here in Brussels now, I've experienced the most weird and hot summers. We really need to make a change now and allow mobility between continents by train.”
When I tell him that the color and shape of the blue tree on the Bosbar patio doesn't seem to be affected by the natural elements for the time being, he answers that it will mainly be the relentless sun that will make the color of the blue tree fade.
























































































































































































































































































































































































































































































"It is the work itself that shows me the way.”

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