Torroo's creations onto other materials

The He (art) of Three Sisters
ARTISTS/EXHIBITIONS, WALKARTROAD Magazine | October 11, 2013 by Walkartroad Magazine |


Ruth Bircham and Carine Vanderstraeten

“It was really painful for me to see how the Touaregs are suffering in Mali and I wanted to do something, let me try and find a way to support them. The idea came to do an exhibition with a concert and in performance get Touareg groups to perform.’’-Carine Vanderstraeten

When a man faces upheavals from the soul, three types of persons come are always bound to come the man’s way. The first person is the one that sees his problems, but looks away and move on fast. The second one sees the problems, but prays for someone to come the man’s way to solve the problems, he also moves on. The third person is the one that sees the man’s problems and decides to solve them. He is the Good Samaritan.
Carine Vanderstraeten, Ruth Bircham and Mary Lindekens are true sisters of Africa. They belong to the third person with the heart of gold. Their career paths easily tell and expose the visual activism in them. The artistic visions and ideas in them have made them to work with multifarious talents across the world, encouraging social work and humanitarian causes, yet with few, or rather, no financial backup. They have always done things differently, leaving behind strides and the will to do things independently, coupled with the audacity of hope put them in a sheer class! The grace of the western cultures and opportunities are enough to see them through. Rather, their conscientious efforts to support Africa and the people through music, art, humanitarian cause deserve commendable applause. “I contacted my dear friend Mary Lindekens who is familiar with the Touaregs and asked her if she was interested to start this project. She was enthusiastic. And then I told her I would invite other artists to participate with us and I got Ruth Bircham from the United Kingdom.” Carine Vanderstraeten enthuses further. And the night in Brussels, Kel Assouf, and the Touareg group came to perform. The other participating artists are Carine Vanderstraeten, Ruth Bircham, Leon de Bliquy, and Annie Vanhee.

Some of the selected artworks on display

Though they live and work in Europe, living between two cities, Brussels and London, these sisters of Africa, even enjoy patronage and popularity more than some Africa leaders. They have embarked on personal and self sponsored art projects, receptions, fund raisers and career guide for artists of black origin. They hardly give up, instead, they wax stronger to express their minds through fashion, painting, designing, album covers, illustrations for publications and falling in love with African brothers. Even today, they speak some smattering African languages. The sisters brought out their creative designs and artworks collections to support the cause of the Touareg people of Mali, a beautiful night for Africa. Ruth Bircham recounts, “I donated to the cause for Mali, when Carine told me her idea, I started painting these small miniatures to bring with me to Brussels as my larger works would be too big. I paint art that will overwhelm the viewer and keep them looking. As they are trying to decide if what they are looking at is a photograph, print or paintings, as my art is photographic and looks very different when you are standing in front of them. I painted here 25 works which are size 10x7inches on canvas, painted in Acrylic.’’ Another artist Anna Papadopoulou commented, “I am grateful for the commonly shared days. All the collected experiences, conversations, laughs, dances, good food and heart gestures. Hope to see you soon and to build and hold good friendship.”

Participating artists works on display

These attributes brought a bond of love and compassion for the Touaregs of Mali. Yes, Mali resurrects again in our hearts. Just like so many African countries, the tribes, nations and ethnics, where nepotism, neglects, starvation, poverty, bad economy and financial profligacy have bedeviled the whole continent. These have gone beyond control; thereby opening doors for civil wars, brain drain and terrorism are rocking Africa to pieces. Africa’s celebrated histories and monuments, civilizations and traditions, education and local knowledge are being destroyed gradually. The big question is; where is the love? The Viva Africa salute seems washed away in bloodshed and hunger! From Nigeria to Congo, Mali to Libya, Egypt to Kenya, the no more my brother language looms all over in the cloud. But this token of love from the three sisters, if gradually heralded and giving necessary support can sure make Africa and the people to start smiling again. Africa, so long, but hope within.

Carine Vanderstraeten and Annie Varhee at the event in Brussels

Photographs/Artworks Courtesy Participating Artist and Carine Vanderstraeten




June 12, 2013 by Walkartroad Magazine

DEVOTION– Presently trending is the ‘Jewel from Belgium’. She is Africa’s best friend. She lives, dreams, enjoys, celebrates and promotes the continent more the Africans! She is a Belgian, speaks French and English. Africa is a continent so dear to her. The cultures, the art, the music of Africa, all inspire her in her day to day life and career. Right from her childhood, Carine Vanderstraeten has always seen the purity in Africans black color. She readily admits that she was born with. A trait in her that never wanted to leave her body and got stuck. The artistic nature in her also contributes to the admiration and devotion on Africa that she speaks and writes some of the languages at appreciable level. Carine is delight to meet and listen to. Life memories and reflections, contact with Africa, her views about the continent’s culture and art that are so dear to the ‘Jewel’. In her revelation to WALKARTROAD, Carine reveals what Africa and Africans truly mean to her.


You seem to be a staunch supporter and a friend of Africa?
I was born with it. I realised this when I was a little girl that I always get attracted to the blacks. I mean everything that has to do with Africa or the Afro-Americas. Even, while growing up, my first doll as a baby was a black one that was so precious to me. During my teenage years, I started listening to all kinds of black culture music, ranging from soul, funk to reggae and favourite actor was Sidney Poitier. At the tender age of twelve, I gave a speech in school about Black American civil rights activist, Rev. Martin Luther King, then, we were asked to choose any personality we admire and I simply chose him, because of his inspirational qualities. I was a rebel singing James Brown, “Say it loud/ I am black/ and I am proud!”My first boyfriend happened to be a Congolese student. Then, it somehow derision, but I was unperturbed. We were very happy, having good time together and I was proud to walk with him on the streets, when people will stare at us, because we were deeply in love. It was even, about that time, a certain journalist friend of my family gave me a book titled “Roots”, written by Alex Haley. Somehow, it seemed the man knew where my heart is and that book, the storyline are etched in my memory till today! I remember being aged 15 at the time. The book changed my life forever and opened my eyes about black history. I got engrossed with African music, Afro-American music and African history. Two of Nigeria’s most famous artistes, King Sunny Ade and Fela Kuti, came into my life, when I was close to age 20. Gradually, I got hooked to the music from Mali; the Touaregs and Nigerian folksongs took my breath away. Each time I listened to their music, I felt like coming home. I discovered through music that Nigeria is my home.

Can you rate Africa in terms of Art appreciation?
Many great European artists were and still are looking up to Africa for inspiration right from time. Even, Pablo Picasso was inspired by African art, masks and more. So many people and collectors today are collecting African art,
, because the art has a great culture. Yes, the soul of art is in Africa.
What inspired your career?
I started creating art at the tender age of ten. I was just drawing, but later abandoned it. Only to meet a friend, who discovered all my drawings and was awestruck! The next day, I went for paper and everything, then, the explosion! I couldn’t stop drawing anymore. I first did black and white graphics after another. The response was cool, as, people loved them so much. I had a boyfriend, who was also a professional photographer, who asked me to come up with a signature name for my art works and I took “Toroo”. From then on, I started adding colors to my drawings.

Talking about fulfilment, it’s like you get inspired by Africa’s world music? How often does this attachment contribute to your career path?
Africa lives in my heart. Sometimes, I got hooked to an album and I would start feeling the beat, the emotions draw in, the culture and the tribe overwhelm me, then, I always want to draw and paint on it to give my feelings for Africa.
Most of these songs are being done in Africa’s many languages. How do you relate with such music for inspirations?
I feel the music, the emotions, the messages and most of the musicians put on lyrics with translations. But most importantly, the music speaks.

One of your works was inspired by Beautiful Nubia’s “Irinajo’’. Please can you shed more light about the work and the impact of the album?
“Irinajo’’ hit me! Each person who listens to BN’s messages in the album, surely, should get inspired. That’s how the concept “The power of love” was born and it became the cover for “Sun No Dey Sleep”. It was a present to my friend and he appreciated the impact of the work. It was a surprise for me when it became the album cover. What an honour! BN’s music inspires me all the time. He lifts me. Presently, I have made five paintings on all his albums. Again, I am working on one at the moment. Beautiful Nubia is a blessing to Nigeria. So, I wonder, if all people from Nigeria would follow the spirit of BN, you can imagine Nigeria’s future?
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Drawing lines around African art

By Moyo Okediji 30/11/2011


Carine Vanderstraeten, a European artist whose adopted African name is Torroo, demonstrates that the boundaries of art in Africa and Europe no longer exist. What remains are cultural crossroads and intersections that allow for ideas and images to move in and out without strict geographical labels. She states that "Visiting Africa, especially Nigeria seriously changed my life even when - back in 2009, my first time - friends over here where calling me crazy cause of the bad reputation of Nigeria and because I didn’t know my contacts personally, but only by facebook or phone. But as I only listen to my heart, I just took the plane straight to Lagos, now I call Lagos ’the heartbeat of Black Africa’. I had the time of my life and went back in 2010. I could tell you many stories, adventures...Let’s say I have a very strong connection to Nigeria, the culture, especially the music. I truly found my roots in Nigeria.

As Torroo, her work samples and highlights forms associated with African art. From African music, she borrows the tension of free-flow rhythm within a geometrical structure, which she uses to organise her visual compositions. "It does not matter what materials we use. Maybe we use what’s available but at the end we create with our heart and soul. For me I’m white: but I did the last cd cover of the popular Yoruba musician Beautiful Nubia. He selected my design for the album "Sun No Dey Sleep;’" When people who do not know me lsee the album, they all think I’m an African. Don’t you think this is interesting?"

There is really no basis for refusing to recognise the effects of easy communication technologies that have liquefied the world, and made it easier to connect with foreign lands. "Most of my creations were influenced by either African music or the ‘serenity’ of nature. I feel a strong sense of belonging and bonding with Africa; and listening to African music is for me a homecoming of some sort, a journey back to my roots.   After carefully choosing a musician that I’d like to listen to, I would immerse myself in the sounds, and get absorbed in the numerous instruments and all the emotions that come with the music. In this state of mind, I create every work, which I complete with a ‘dotpainting’ technique, otherwise called pointillism. In my painting process, I sing along with the music or simply hum the rhythms of Africa, falling into a trance, landing in Africa."

• Okediji is of the University of Texas in Austin, USA

Published on august 12th 2012 in The Guardian/Nigeria


THE spiritual bond between Europe and Africa appears to find expression in Carine Vanderstraeten’s art. While the late German linguist, Uli Beier, describes this bond as ‘ori-inu (inner self)’, Suzanne Wenger, the late Adunni Orisa,sees it in Osun grove.

For Vanderstraeten, who is based in Belgium, the elixir for her visual expression, though contemporary, is African music. In fact, a first contact with her work gives impression of rhythmically strung beads, but indeed, it’s pointillism, a painstaking method of painting in dots. 

Largely rendered in semi-abstract form, Vanderstraeten’s themes strike a balance between her European identity and Africanness. In the last three years, she has traveled round Nigeria to explore this bond.

Africa, Food for my Soul by Carine Vanderstraeten

In works such as Africa, Food for my Soul, Born With Music In My Heart, Unity and Love, Laidu and Power of Love, the Belgian artist stresses this bond, at the same time, confirming the thin line between cultures, especially, when expressed in abstract motifs. And more instructive, Vanderstraeten employs earth and warm colours to stress the cultural barriers and links. 

You wonder how she gets her inspiration? Vanderstraeten says, “listening to African music is for me a homecoming of some sort, a journey back to my roots.” She continues: "most of my creations are influenced either by African music or the ‘serene’ nature of the continent. I feel a strong sense of belonging and bonding with Africa.”

In the music of artistes such as Beautiful Nubia, Orlando Julius and Rokia Traore, the inspirations for her are irresistible. She says, “after carefully choosing a musician that I’d like to listen to, I often immerse myself in the sounds, and get absorbed in the numerous instruments and all the emotions that come with the music.”
Translating the feeling into visual content, she finds an energy and intellectual sapping medium such as pointillism to release her emotion.
And nothing should be allowed to escape, so, “in my painting process, I sing along with the music or simply hum the rhythms of Africa, falling into a trance, landing in Africa."

This much reflects in some of the themes, which have stylised depiction of musical instruments.

For each artist of her heart, she gets an inspiration to produce a piece: Laidu is inspired by the music of Traore and Born with Music in my Heart and Soul is inspired by Orlando Julius. And when she says, Nubia’s music inspired Power of Love; it appears more personal because the musician is her good friend and mentor.

Carine (right) and Nigerian musician, Beautiful Nubia

THE journey to Africa for self-expression started 10 years ago for the artist. Then, she had just begun to draw again after some years of sabbatical, and it was an explosion, from where she found out that black music has influence on her drawings. She was even advised by friends to start using colours.

“So, I started painting,” she retorts. Vanderstraeten believes that Nigeria is Africa’s heartbeat and ‘artbeat’. Therefore, she always insists on visiting the place despite discouragement from friends in Belgium.

That she met most of her Nigerian friends through Facebook, and still holds the country in high esteem, says much about the ‘bad eggs’ in the country not killing her honest dispositions.