Ousmane Mbaye, Designer

Art Kelen
7 min readFeb 17, 2018



Could you introduce yourself?

I am Ousmane M’Baye, a Senegalese designer. I am 41 years old.

Why did you choose this job?

Out of curiosity, out of need and out of love. I have been a frigorist for 17 years. In my thirties I completely changed my orientation, I made a big turn and I started design. I got closer to the Bauhaus philosophy of “Learning by doing”. At first it was to answer a personal need but I quickly understood the importance that design can have in our daily life.

As an artist, how would you define yourself?

I define myself as a Contemporary Designer.

What is your background?

I have been trained as a technician in cold control, a profession that I have been doing for 17 years. This allowed me to work with a lot of work techniques (welding, metal work, copper work, electricity etc …) that I use today in my job as a designer. People say that I am self-taught but I do not think so. I learned a business and I transformed it.

At 30, it was certainly my thirties crisis, I decided to change orientations. I finally listened and I started creating objects and furniture.

Who influenced you?

My main influence is my father. It is a man for whom I have a great admiration and whose behavior, reflections, philosophy of life impress me and force me to be someone better. He is a model for me, he inspires me a lot.

Two great ladies, Marie-José Crespin and Marina Yaguelo played an important role in my career.

Marie-José Crespin, whom I consider to be my 2nd mother, is a former magistrate, who has retired to her passion: necklaces and ethnic and archeological ornaments.

I exchanged a lot with her about art and creation in particular.

Marina Yaguello is a great friend. She is a linguist and professor emeritus at the University of Paris VII. She has written extensively on linguistics and languages in general. She studies the wolof. She’s the one who pushed me to do my very first exhibition.


Which artists do you admire? Who inspired you?

I greatly admire Aissa Dione and among the people of my generation, Issa Diabaté.

Aissa Dione has been devoting herself for many years to the development of know-how in West Africa, mainly in the field of Textile Arts.

His purpose is to prove that endogenous economic development is possible, by using local resources, both physical and human goods, and by linking traditional know-how with industrial skills.

Issa Diabaté is a renowned architect and Ivorian designer.

Have your loved ones always supported you in your choices?

Yes, I was fortunate to be supported from the beginning by my relatives. My decision surprised some but when I make a decision as important as this is that I believe in it and when I believe 100% in something, it is better to be on my side (laughs).

What do your works reflect?

The balance! It is essential when creating a piece of furniture (or any piece of art). This equilibrium manifests itself in the management of the full and the empty, in the curve of a line, in the dressing of a piece of furniture.

From my point of view, it is essential to find a harmonious balance so that a piece, in addition to being practical, is beautiful and elegant. This is the balance between the full and the empty.


Where does your inspiration come from?

I do not know…. If I knew what inspired me I would never be looking for me, or the other. The past, the present, the nature, the urban, the people. All ! With a big “T”! Others, life, the street. A song, a look, a picture … A discussion, an exchange, the work of a poet or a painter. Everything can be inspirational. We must let it “infuse” and listen to one’s heart and have fun. The island of Gorée helps me a lot for that.

To observe, to take, to give, to seek balance in forms. The inspiration comes to me quite naturally. Satisfying a personal need, a need for new things, to see new things that make me happy. All this mix becomes inspiration.

How do you work?

I design the model in my head, shape, line, balance and I think about it for a few days. When it’s ready in my head I go to the workshop and I make a prototype. In general, there are few changes. I do not touch a mouse, not a pen, it’s a little original way to proceed but that’s how I can move forward, create.

What is the step that you prefer in the realization?

When we go from the idea to the concrete object, the realization, the very construction of the object, to see it come to life.

When you start a creation, do you have a clear idea of the desired outcome?

In general, the idea is quite precise and I know where I am going. Now there is always a bit of surprise in what the piece can turn into, how it lives once it has taken shape, how it behaves in space. How it wants to orient itself. But in general it’s very clear in my head.

What is your particularity?

My particularity is to be very curious, even bulimic and to always want, with great simplicity.


How would you define your art, your creations?

It’s really me, it looks a lot like me. Always in research, in evolution, in search.

Which of your creations do you prefer?

The next (laughs). This is a big question. Every piece I created has answered to a need, at one point in my life. I can not name one, they were all important at a time, each marked me in his own way. On the occasion of the Biennale of Contemporary Art of Dakar 2016, I took out some models of my sitting but working only the frame, the skeleton, in pure and simple matte white. On this occasion I realized how each piece has a story and how each piece has marked me in one way or another.

Where do you work ?

My workshop is in Soumbédioune, opposite the Dakar Handicraft Market. I need more space and I dream of finding a place more spacious and more suitable.

What is the ideal environment for you to be able to practice your job?

There is no ideal environment, it is us who create the environment in which we evolve. And if you are in harmony with the place, the space, there is no better. You can be inspired wherever you are.

Are you a member of associations, collectives or others?

I’m part of “African Design Day”. I find this an interesting initiative. Now the difficulty is that it is a long-term project and that reflects positively on all participants, all members.

Are you interested in other artistic forms and other forms of culture?

Yes, I really like contemporary photography, Textile Design, Contemporary Dance and I am fond of African Art, antiques.

I am currently working on the creation of a Design School here in Senegal. I find it a pity that we do not have a school of Design when we have all this potential, all these young people eager to move forward and create. Some have the chance to go abroad to train but the majority has no alternative, no solution on the spot.

To provide trainings, to set up a permanent institution that will enable young Senegalese but also young people from all over the continent to train here and then to apply what they have learned in our daily lives.

How to grow when 95% of what is consumed comes from abroad?

We must be able to create here, produce here, put in place the appropriate structures and tools for that. I am lucky to have around me many professionals from the world of Design, Architecture, Textile Design, Art in general and I intend to use this network to make each an incubator and a representative of this project.

Design is integrated today at all levels of the economic and social fabric. It is a real need and it is surely a job of the future that will allow us to share our aesthetic vision with the greatest number. In any case it’s my dream and I fight every day to make it a reality.



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