Wide Open Walls
The idea for Wide Open Walls was born from Lawrence Williams’s work with local artist Njogu Toray. Together they came to be known as ‘Bushdwellers’ and worked with stencils and eventually moved on to painting larger canvases. This morphed into an idea of decorating some of the local compounds in the wider Ballabu region. Lawrence’s vision was to expand the project into something more, something lasting that could both function as a valid art installation in itself and at the same time promote The Gambia as a tourist destination. The basic idea was to turn part of the village of Kubuneh within the Ballabu area into a living art project.
So, back in 2009, Lawrence spoke with world-renowned street artist Eelus and suddenly he had himself a curator – the first curator of Wide Open Walls… And in October 2010, eight of the world’s leading street artists (Eelus himself, Xenz, Logan Hicks, Will Barras, Broken Crow [John Girder & Mike Fitzsimmons], Lucy McLauchlan and Mysterious Al) came to The Gambia and over the space of two weeks created art works using the village as their canvas. The results were subtle and remarkable – the paintings both blending into the environment with ease and somehow enhancing the surroundings with an understated grace. The cumulative effect is extraordinary.
The project was repeated in 2011 with Ricky Lee Gordon of South Africa-based Write On Africa as curator and artists including Will Barras, C215, and Ben Eine. The results were similarly spectacular, both in terms of the artwork created and the galvanising effect the presence of the artists had on the local community. There was an undeniable mutual affection among the artists and the people of the villages, and a sense of wanting this to stand for so much more than a mere vanity art project. Wide Open Walls has hopefully created something that will blossom into so much more: something sustainable and inspiring.
Wide Open Walls continues to flourish, year on year, and the colourful street art can now also be found around the grounds of Mandina Lodges themselves.