Irene López de Castro is, among Spaniards, one of the people who best knows Timbuktu, the mythical Tim-Buktu, the well of Buktu, the Tuareg slave girl who gave rise in the 5th century to one of the most beautiful and fascinating enclaves in Africa. A traveller to the Sahel, and especially to Mali for more than thirty years, this painter from Madrid has captured in her works the very essence of life in what many adventurers wanted to see as a sort of African El Dorado.
This long travelling and social experience with the local population is captured by López de Castro in a large exhibition which, under the generic title of 'Women of the Sahel', can be seen at Casa Árabe in Madrid until 25 July. This event is part of the Spanish Presidency of the General Assembly of the Sahel Alliance, and is complemented by another exhibition, curated by the artist herself, at Casa África in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, entitled 'La Herencia del Bogolanfini' (The Inheritance of Bogolanfini).
The landscapes and scenes of daily life on the banks of the River Niger bring the spectator closer to an apparently distant area, but one that has brutally entered the world news as a result of the irruption of Daesh terrorism in Mali and in the other countries that make up the Sahelian belt. López de Castro has reiterated on numerous occasions that Timbuktu, also ravaged and plundered by jihadist terrorism, has been and is in fact at the centre of the world. An area and an enclave in which women will once again be decisive in recovering the legacy of one of the great intellectual and spiritual centres of Islam.
The painter from Madrid is making a notable contribution to the knowledge of the other reality of the Sahel, the one reflected in everyday scenes and in the faces and figures of the women who sustain the scaffolding of a thriving society, an important crossroads of roads, cultures and people. He does this using mixed techniques, using wooden supports, stones or bogolan, the Malian technique that uses fermented mud to dye the canvas by hand. It is her own tribute to nature, discarding materials that are not intimately linked to it. The artist thus fuses African technique with her own in canvases made with mud paint and the Malian sun.
This stop at Casa Árabe in Madrid is the continuation of her artistic journey through Italy, France and South Korea, where she has exhibited many of her works inspired by her experiences in the Sahel. In 2017, the National Museum of Mali itself hosted his exhibition entitled 'Au coeur du Mali' (In the heart of Mali), recognised as one of the most outstanding artistic contributions of those exhibited in Bamako. A few months ago, the Real Círculo Artístico de Barcelona also hosted the exhibition 'Women of Timbuktu'. Irene López de Castro also announces the forthcoming publication of her Memories of the River Niger. An enormous wealth of experiences and artistic expressions. It is not in vain that she herself has referred to this waterway on many occasions as the River of Life.