In a discreet gallery not far from the prison for women in the Liberté 6 district in Dakar, a slim young man with a pleasant smile comes to take a seat on a seat resting on four ox horns. Around him, the jewelry, wax shirts, colorful pictures and even the seat he just sat on all have one thing in common: They were all designed by prisoners from Senegalese prisons. The young man, 27-year-old Moctar Cisse, is one of the first admirers of these somewhat unusual artists. So he created Yeswesell.org, an online platform for reselling products made by prisoners.
It was with equity that he launched YesWeSell in early 2016 with the equivalent of 1,000 euros. “My father was a prison director, and from the age of 15 I started working with prisoners. These contacts changed the image I had of the detainee, ”explains Moctar Cisse enthusiastically. A few months after the launch of his platform, the young man can already count on the support of the rising Senegalese star, singer Faada Freddy and his group Daara J Family, designated ambassadors of the project.
Already 3,000 visits and eight orders
Yeswesell claims 3,000 visits and eight orders, from Senegal, but also France, Belgium and the United Kingdom. One of the paintings, titled “Baobab”, should soon be sent to Great Britain. The objects for sale, very varied, range from 10 to 210 euros. 10% of sales go to site management, and the rest goes directly to the creator. The total profit for the moment amounts to 75,000 CFA francs (around 115 euros).
Moctar Cissé “wanted to do something to improve [the] living conditions” of prisoners, widely criticized by human rights organizations. Senegal has thirty-seven prisons that accommodate 8,630 people for a limit of 7,360 places available, according to the British research center International Center for Prison Studies. This makes the country the third largest jailer in West Africa. And the conditions of detention are deplorable. Photos of leaked cells show men sleeping on top of each other. The International Center for Prison Studies also mentions men who sometimes wait several years behind bars for their trials.
Moctar Cissé therefore hopes to change the situation by valuing their “creative potential, to restore the prisoner’s coat of arms”, whatever the reasons for his detention. For the time being, the site only ensures the sale of products. But Moctar Cissé plans to eventually create a space for expression and debate for the detainees.
Laurann Clément contributor Le Monde Afrique, Dakar
Learn more at http://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2016/04/26/au-senegal-les-prisonniers-vendent-leur-art-sur-internet_4909004_3212.html#rrZUj4r5Mdcwl13q.99