Torroo's creations onto other materials

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