Senegalese sculptor Ousmane Sow, considered one of the giants of African art has died in Dakar, aged 81.
Sow spent most of his adult life between Dakar and Paris, where he first moved when he was 22.
Famed for his monumental sculptors of Nubian wrestlers, he produced a series of striking bronzes of muscular African men.
The series included “The Massai”, “The Zulus” and “The Fulani” and were widely exhibited in France and at the prestigious Documenta festival in Germany as well as in Venice Biennale.
Sow also sculpted the late South African leader, Nelson Mandela as a goalkeeper, an image of which he said “he extends his hand to keep corrupt African heads of state at bay”.
Born in Dakar in 1935, the former physiotherapist, only began working seriously as an artist at the age of 50.
Although he sculpted imposing creations, he is said to have done that without the use of a model.
Sow’s fascination for the human body developed when he enrolled at a physiotherapy school while living in the French capital.
His knowledge of muscles and the human anatomy featured prominently in his creations.
The late artist is famously quoted as saying: “I could be blindfolded and still make a human body from head to toe.”
Sow held his first exhibition in Dakar following Senegal’s independence from France in 1960.
Commenting on Sow’s death, Senegal’s Culture Minister, Mbagnick Ndiaye said: “The fact that his works were shown all over the world proved that he was a giant of culture. It is a real loss.”
Sow captured Europe’s attention in 1999 with his giant sculptures of wrestlers exhibited on the Pont des Arts bridge near the Louvre in Paris.
He became the first African to be admitted to the French Academy of Fine Arts – one of France’s five creative “académies” in December 2013, replacing American painter Andrew Wyeth.
He had been ill for some time before his death.
“He has taken with him all the dreams and projects that his body was too tired to finish,” said a family member to AFP.