- Performing Arts
- New York
“This exploration of the archives of Sikki’s life, the places he frequented and the traces he may have left in New York, will enhance my broader reflection on the geopolitics of the body – a way of seeing the body as a complex tapestry of intimate, relational, and political spaces that must assert their place in the global landscape.”
I’m Alioune Diagne, known as Lune Diagne, visual artist, choreographer and dancer who lives between Senegal and the Netherlands. I studied at the School of Fine Arts in Dakar from 2006 to 2007. At the end of 2007, I decided to devote myself to contemporary dance and continue to practice drawing and to take an active interest in the visual arts by collaborating with visual artists and creating performances around works that inspire me. For the past three years, after many years devoted to dance, I have returned to the visual arts.
Since 2018, I have started a series of paintings and drawings on the facial expressions of the Senegalese infantrymen massacred at the Thiaroye camp on 01 December 1944. This Tirailleurs series attracted the attention of art and science professionals. The historian Jean-François Leguil-Bayart devoted an article to it entitled « Alioune Diagne, ou la mémoire juste des tirailleurs » (Alioune Diagne, or the just memory of the Tirailleurs) in which he considers that the works restore “ The just memory, a critical presence of the past, purged of all rancour, hatred, and anger, but which reminds us of what has been and should not have been” .
For the past three years, after many years devoted to dance, Diagne has returned to the visual arts. He received training in contemporary dance from Saliani Seydou, Kettly Noël, Germaine Acogny and Ciré Beye. After creating two solos (Blabla and This line is my path), Diagne had a big success with his creation for three dancers Banlieue. The piece reflects on daily life in the Senegalese banlieues and was co-produced by CCN Ballet Preljocaj-Pavillon Noir (Aix-enProvence, France) and the Institut Français de Saint-Louis. After having been programmed at the Festival International Danse l’Afrique Danse! in Soweto, South-Africa, Banlieue was selected for a continental tour in 2013, performing in 18 different African countries. Apart from his own work, Diagne has interpreted the solo Flora by choreographer Kenzo Kusuda in Korzo Theatre and a role in Fagaala by Germaine Acogny’s company Jant-Bi. Since 2019 Diagne has been a part of an artistic residency in Stadsgehoorzaal in Kampen Nederland. Additionally, he founded Diagn’Art Dance Company in 2008, in Saint-Louis, Senegal. Since 2008, the Company Diagn’Art has been the initiator and producer of the International Duo Solo Dance, which is the only annual contemporary dance festival in Senegal. When it comes to his visual arts, Diagne has participated in several exhibitions shows in Senegal and The Netherlands, and is currently represented by OH Gallery.
For this residency project, I would like to travel to New York in order to follow the traces of Battling Siki. There I will investigate where he used to live, train, and socialize and where he was eventually killed in 1925. I will delve into the circumstances surrounding his death, which remains unsolved. My research will be dedicated to meeting New Yorkers, and to questioning them on their relationship with Siki’s generation of the 1920s which was the period of the Harlem Renaissance where Black arts, politics, literature and more were flourishing in New York.
Additionally, I will focus on the current generation as there is a large Senegalese community in New York named Le Petit Senegal in Manhattan, the same borough where Siki lived and died. I will attempt to draw a record year by year from the 1920s to the current times, this comparison could be the result of a body analysis in space. This is due to the status of the Black body in the 1920s in the US and France being unsafe and often subjugated to violence. Hence, my focus will be on inquiries such as the current status of the Black body and the extent to which it has evolved since the 1920s. The aim of my research is twofold: to shed light on Siki’s life and the injustices surrounding his death, and to delve into the geopolitics of the Black body, given Siki’s utilization of his own body as a means of survival and livelihood, both in France and the United States.
The output of this research will be an installation with sculptures, paintings, photos and other objects I will retrieve from Amsterdam, New York, Marseille and Saint Louis which are the cities where Siki has lived. During the installation, a participatory contemporary dance performance will take place, inviting the audience to freely engage with both the performer and the artwork, encouraging movement and interaction.
I chose the United States because it’s the country in which Battling Siki fought and spent the last three years of his life, before being assassinated on December 15, 1925.
While I’m in New York, I’d like to meet its inhabitants, especially those who know the city’s history from the 1920s onwards, so that I can follow in Battling Siki’s footsteps, understand where he lived, boxed, went out at night, and discover the places that marked his New York life.
I’d also like to meet American artists who have taken an interest in the subjects of boxing, the black body in space, and the presence of people of color in this cosmopolitan America.
This exploration of the archives of Sikki’s life, the places he frequented and the traces he may have left in New York, will enhance my broader reflection on the geopolitics of the body – a way of seeing the body as a complex tapestry of intimate, relational, and political spaces that must assert their place in the global landscape.
The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.