A few weeks before the borders closed in February 2020, on the cusp of the pandemic, I traveled to Dakar in Senegal.

I have long associated this country with wrestling and its mystical rituals. Interested in this national sport, Malick, member of staff of the hotel where I resided offered to join him at the end of his service to attend an important fight in the arena of the Grand Yoff the same day.

I found myself sitting on the sand track, in the front row, contemplating with wonder this performance which lasted several hours, accompanied by a choir of women dressed in brightly colored boubous and percussionists. The arena goes into a trance that takes me over. From then on, I would attend training sessions for a week of the Sakou Xam Xam team which I was introduced to the day after the fight.

These moments spent with the wrestlers allowed me to better understand their condition, their aspiration and the universe in which they evolve. A universe steeped in sacredness, the sublime, respect for ancestors and the forces of Nature. I experienced unexpected sensations, alternately pleasant, moving, violent, seeing the fights fiercely happening in front of my eyes.

The heartbreak of the vanquished, the glory of the victors erected as gods on Earth and acclaimed by a bewitched audience made me wonder about the echo that this performance provokes in us.
During this stay, I browsed the markets and I got an expandable range of colorful bazins, waxed cotton brocades, with the desire to rework them in Cairo in my Khayamiya tapestries, appliquéd and hand embroidered by the tent makers I work with.

I also visited the institutional Théodore Monod Museum of African Art, where I was immediately won over by the Africanist architecture of the 1930s, the charm of the gardens, the lines of which echo those of sacred masks. I retained from this visit the vitality of the appliquéd hangings of the kingdom of Danhomè in the current Republic of Benin dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, forming large fabric collages where human figurines and formidable animals are engaged in fierce duels.

These hangings composed of pictograms remind me in their graphics of Egyptian hieroglyphics and for the embroidery technique, the sublime tents of the Ottoman Empire decorated with appliquéd calligraphy, vehicles of spiritual and political messages through the great military campaigns.

Born from this stay in Dakar followed by a trip to Cairo, a mixture of influences and colors celebrated through an exploratory series of tapestries in bazin where the figurative merges with the abstraction.
The hospitality and gentleness of the wrestlers who received me like a brother moved me deeply.
The admiration of the other gives way to a creative complicity, the dialectization and the discovery of a powerful and vulnerable, sensual and painful otherness. This omnipresent duality between light and dark, life and death, mastery and abandonment in the game that these men embody, invited me to chromatically express this fiery mêlée through chromatic rivalries.

The lines of the bodies fighting are intertwined, forming colorful maps. Borders mingle with silhouettes, waves drawn in the sand are superimposed on the defined muscles of the wrestlers, the confrontation gave way to a union of bodies with Nature.

Louis Barthélemy


Scenography of Louis Barthélemy's solo Show « The Wrestlers » at the Museum Théodore Monod of African art in Dakar.

Scenography of Louis Barthélemy's solo Show « The Wrestlers » at Zoumboulakis gallery in Athens bringing together tapestries and photorgaphs took in Dakar.

PUSH OFF 125 x 90 cm

PULLING 125 x 90 cm

AT NIGHTFALL 120 x 90 cm

THE GRAPEVINE 121 x 87 cm

OVERTURN 126 x 90 cm

PRESSURE 123 x 90 cm

SURPASSED 177 x 126 cm

TURN OVER 120 x 116 cm


MÊLÉE  129 x 90 cm

TWO BROTHERS  85 x 60 cm

CROSS HOLD  85 x 60 cm

THE VANQUISHED  85 x 60 cm

THE GRIP  70 x 50 cm

NECK HOLD  70 x 50 cm

CONFRONTATION  121 x 115 cm


VICTORIOUS 100 x 98 cm

THE ADVERSITY  205 x 148 cm

ADMONITION 100 x 97 cm

INTERTWINED 130 x 90 cm

STRENGHT 400 x 250 cm