Meissa Fall from Saint Louis, Senegal has had a passion for bicycles since he was a boy. The 55-year old began by following in his father’s footsteps – repairing bicycles and motorbikes. But even as a child he could see shapes coming out of the bikes that his father made him clean over and over again after they had been fixed.
“I would clean a second time around and in my head I would transform them into birds, personalities, anything because bikes have human and animal forms so it is not hard to transform them. there is a saying with bicycles, we say ‘front paw and back paw.’”
He says the more he cleaned the bicycles the more he fell in love with them. And with time he turned his visions into reality. Today he recycles abandoned bicycles, using every part to create sculptures effectively extending their usefulness into perpetuity.
Meissa Fall, both a sculptor and poet, says he sees it as “closing the circle in the cycle of life”.
“With some bikes, including the luggage carrier and everything you can find 2,000 pieces and none of of them work without the other. There is a union, a solidarity, they are together, they are soldered together,” he says.
Fall used to ride motorbikes as a youth, tearing through the narrow streets of Saint Louis, an old colonial city on the northwest coast of Senegal whose central architecture is protected by UNESCO.
He says he became wiser as he grew older and today prefers to ride at a slower pace on his clean and quiet bicycle.
“It is the best invention because it does not pollute, we don’t need to go to the petrol station, and it doesn’t produce any noise, you don’t bother anyone” he says.
Meissa’s son, Bassirou, helps his father make a fish out of a bicycle rim.
“You know each rim, during its lifetime, has made thousands of laps, just like fish,” says Meissa.
Meissa wants to pass on his passion, his art and his skill which he calls ‘cycle of art’ (cycle d’art) to his son to ensure the cycle of creation and repurposing remains unbroken.
“I would like to ensure its passed on (transforming the bikes) and eventually make my own inventions,” says Bassirou.
For Meissa, turning old bikes into art is an ode to the millions of revolutions of the bikes wheels on the tarmac and dirt roads of the colonial city, a homage to the cycle of life and a legacy he hopes will continue to flow through his children.