Arts View

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Sept – Nov 2020

Djibril Drame

Djibrile Drame – Photographer/ Visual Artist

Even though he has won international awards for his work and can count a slew of multinationals as former clients e.g. Coca Cola, Virgin Records, Facebook, Western Union etc, he remains grounded, humble and highly ambitious.

Born and raised in Dakar, Senegal, Djibril spent his early years in a part of the city called Medina.  His cousin, Deep, who is an artist, was always bringing art to their house during Djibril’s childhood and this inspired him to take an interest and begin his own artistic journey.  

His father worked in logistics which allowed for a comfortable upbringing.  His demeanour and conduct left a mark on Djibril.  “Consistency is the key”, this is a message that his father imparted to him when he was a boy.  It is a message he has carried with him throughout his life.  During some of the toughest times, it is this message that has resonated and kept him focused and resolute.

His mother, who he cites as being his number one hero, was a trader who dealt in household goods that she would go to Turkey to purchase.  It is from her that Djibril feels he was imbued with a joy for life’s simple things, respect and consideration for people.  She was the one who supported him through school and his artistic endeavours right from the very beginning.

While he was still a young boy his family moved from Medina to a place called Diamageune, a district some 16km from downtown Dakar.  While Medina was a melting pot and a comparatively international place, Diamageune was more rough and ready.  It was a place filled with more immediate challenges and tests, namely other young boys seeking to develop a reputation and project influence.   He feels moving there with his family as a young boy really helped to shape him and enabled him develop both a physical and mental toughness.  Diamageune wasn’t a place where being meek was necessarily conducive to an easy life!

Turning our attention to later years, despite the profile he has acquired as an artist Djibril has never formally studied art. In fact he obtained his bachelor’s degree by attending the ‘Institut Supérieur des Sciences de l’Information et de la Communication’ in Senegal where he studied communication/journalism, majoring in public relations.

The only arts based training he has received is a professional course he completed in curating which was provided by ‘Independent Curators International (ICI)’ of New York and ‘Raw Material Company of Dakar.

Djibril readily attests that his background in journalism has helped him tap into commercial networks that have provided lucrative opportunities for his artistic endeavours.

Although principally known as a photographer, he also paints. Having said that, Djibril actually began life as an artist by drawing through the medium of pen on paper.

During the nineties while in his teens, through spending time with his cousin, Deep, and meeting many more artists he came to realize that no one was documenting the evolving visual street art scene at the time. Djibril observed the work many of his peers were producing in the streets and resolved to record their creations through the medium of photography.

The transition to photography involved a lot of experimentation, trial and error. Djibril would spend hours going through books and periodicals as part of his self directed studies and research into the technical aspects associated with his art. He would also analyse films by some of his favourite film-makers such as Martin Scorsese and Djibirl Diop Mambety. In terms of more traditional artistic influences he cites Niki de Saint Phalle and Louise Bourgoise as 2 of his greatest.

When Djibril emerged on the scene armed with his camera, no one was doing what he was doing amongst his peers. He was like a breath of fresh air to them. No one had been paying them much attention. Here was someone who was one of their own capturing and recording the work they were doing.

When asked about his greatest challenge when starting out, he is emphatic in his response; ‘a lack of funding’. People in the art world who were on the same page couldn’t offer much support in terms of resources. People outside the art world could not relate to what he was doing. This made things very difficult.


While he is now a full time artist that wasn’t always the case. Around a year after finishing his ‘A Levels’, as a result of his artistic endeavours a local publisher noticed his talents and invited him to work at his publication, L’As. Djibril was employed as a photographer, reporter and as a regular columnist on photography. He continued working for the publication even after commencing studies at university.

While at university he began working on a part time basis for a local politician in 2013 as well as taking on additional freelance work for other commercial operations. He completed his studies in 2014.

During the period after university he spent some time working for the government, he also co-founded an online publication, ‘’, a portal dedicated to art and entrepreneurs. However, by 2016 he had determined that the 9-5 was not for him, and that art was the vehicle through which he wanted to earn a living.

He feels he found his artistic voice around his mid twenties. His process generally involves meditation, thereafter he will put any ideas down in writing. He will allow for dreams to influence any ideas he has. Time frames from conception to completion typically take between 1 to 5 years.

While in the beginning the main challenge in becoming established was financial, these days he still finds it challenging for black people/Africans to buy into what local artists do. Having said that, he feels the situation is slowly beginning to change.

He aspires to exhibit his work in large museums/galleries. He also desires to facilitate/develop programmes/institutions that enable artists from across the continent to collaborate and showcase their work in different African countries.


By the sound of things, there is a lot more to come from the Djibril Drame. Consistency as they say, is key!

Previous ‘Arts View’ interviews are available here; archive

© 2020 All rights reserved – Ri Iyovwaye on behalf of African Global Networks (AGN) – Sept 2020