Dubai: Global Village's 'Baba Africa' creates masterpieces from wood

Djiby Sow is fondly known as the 'man with the magical fingers'

By SM Ayaz Zakir

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Published: Fri 25 Mar 2022, 11:41 AM

Visitors to Global Village know Djiby Sow as 'Baba Africa', the man with the magical fingers.

Sow, a Senegalese artist who creates wooden masterpieces, has been an active participant at Global Village for the past seven years. He is fondly called Gibrael in many parts of the world, but in Dubai, he is Baba Africa.

"Baba Africa is a reference to an old man who sits at the entrance of the house with a smoking pipe in his hand," Sow said. "I had created a sculpture of 'Baba Africa', which was being showcased throughout the last seven editions at my stall, and I was addressed by the name."

His signature Baba Africa sculpture is pictured below.

Sow's contributions to the Global Village are no small feat. A few months before the mega festival begins every year, he sources the best wood from Senegal and brings it to Dubai.

"I ship this wood by sea before embarking on my six-month journey," Sow said. His artefacts are created using four types of wood.

African mahogany, acajou wood, African teak and khaya mahogany are strong and can last for centuries, Sow said. The different types of wood he uses are pictured below.

'The man with the magical fingers'

The lines of Djiby Sow's palms map the journey he has taken to feed his two wives and seven children. He has earned the title of the 'man with the magical fingers' because of the strenuous process involved in creating his masterpieces.

First, he takes the log and chops it according to the desired size and shape with his specialised tools. Once it takes shape, the only tools he uses are his fingers. He rubs the wood with sandpaper with his bare hands to create a stunning artefact.

The time it takes to complete a wooden sculpture often varies. "A few of these creatives take about a day to complete and many of these take over three days," Sow said.

His sculptures also range in size — some are as small as a fingernail, while others are as large as five feet. The price starts at Dh100 and goes up to Dh1,000, depending on the size and detailing. Sow also crafts customised pieces based on the client's requirement.

Meaning behind his work

Most of Sow's creations have a specific meaning behind them. "I am a traditional artist who fuses cultures and traditions into the work I do," he said. "Some I have crafted showcase tradition back in my country."

Sow's pieces at Global Village include his signature Baba Africa, a lady carrying a pail of water on her head, a couple in love, a family of two and four and a traditional Senegalese couple, which are featured in the collage below.

Though Sow has travelled to many countries in Europe, he says Dubai remains close to his heart.


"I have been to Italy, Germany and a few other countries," he said. "This is my seventh year in Dubai and every year, I have clients from different nationalities. I am one of the few artists in the world who have clients from almost all countries and reason behind it is Dubai's cosmopolitan residents and tourists."

In the future, Sow is looking forward to participating in more editions of Global Village.

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