Ataaya by Fanny Constantino
"Ataaya" by Fanny Constantino. Image: Fanny Constantino/Provided
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“I really feel like art is my destiny,” says Constantino

“Sun, heat, sky, my name is Amina” are the opening words from a poem written by Fanny Constantino to describe the race and gender inequalities for Black women in Dakar, as portrayed in her painting “Ataaya”. 

Constantino is a third-year international student studying communications and political sciences at the University of Ottawa. Inspired by African art and feminist movements, Constantino is a passionate self-taught artist eager to share her opinions and thoughts through acrylic, watercolour and oil-based paintings.

Born and raised in Dakar, Senegal, Constantino has always been surrounded by art and culture. 

“There is a lot of art in my culture, from musicians singing in the streets to artists painting on the streets,” said Constantino.

She explained that her exposure to culture was the most important aspect in igniting her interest in painting at a young age. With the influences of Black feminist artists, Harmonia Rosales and Flamme De Pigalle, it was easy for her to fall in love with painting.  

Through her artwork, she is a storyteller driven to share her narrative and world observations in a meaningful manner.

“I use my art as a weapon to share my opinions and my way of thinking,” she said. 

Constantino does this as she paints the people around her, her culture, and her identity, inspired by symbolism, music, and all arts that convey meaning, in order to deconstruct Western ideals and their dominance in the perception of African art. 

The artist’s favourite piece and poem: “Ataaya”

Fanny’s favourite painting is “Ataaya” because of its message, shapes, lines and colours. Illustrated and painted in 2020, this watercolour-based artwork by Constantino depicts the harsh social reality encountered in the poor Senegalese social classes, where Black women are mistreated as a result of gender and race inequalities.

“In this work, the ataaya (a common Senegalese tea) is the analogy of a magic wand that comes to appease this hard work, it is a utopia because, in reality, the only magic wand is the deconstruction of social ideals of gender and class,” Constantino explained.

Ataaya by Fanny Constantino

 “Sun, heat, sky,

 my name is Amina,

 I travel from one world to another.

 I work in Dakar and I come back on Saturday.

 Under the sun, soaked in heat,

 eyes to the sky, I wash, I clean and I turn the mess into calm.

 A bit like when I prepare my ataaya.

The ataaya is the tool of the elders, the young generation and anyone, which allows you to transform disorder into appeasement.”

“I really believe that art is my destiny”, said Constantino. 

The painter is determined to share her art with hopes of achieving her artistic career goals. 

“it is important to believe in yourself and in your passion. To succeed, you must have confidence.”