Barry Ahmed Talib (from Sagale, Guinea) has been working with Globe Aroma for 4 years. He has already gained national and international recognition for his miniature wooden and carpet trees. Although he is no longer present in the studio or using it permanently, his presence in the space is almost undeniable. This is not only because he regularly drops by and chats with us, but mostly because of the presence of many of his works. This is also embodied by the artist: “When I walk into a room, I see empty canvases and unused spaces everywhere. When I see that, I immediately want to do something with it, to make it beautiful. At Globe Aroma, for example, he is working on the ceiling window above the communal table. He wants to fill it with flowers so that the “empty” space visually comes to life.

Barry likes to describe himself as “a do-it-yourself artist,” an artist who does a little “vanallesennogwat.” He began his artistic career in Sagale. He had a kiosk there where he painted and silk-screened T-shirts. He is proud to say that his kiosk was always the busiest and that one of his murals is still appreciated by visitors today.

Once in Belgium, he continued his work of silk-screening T-shirts. Thus, as an artist, he adopts a socially engaged position. His visual-artistic research is manifested in the typography in Dutch, French and Arabic characters. His T-shirts bear slogans such as “Niemand is illegaal” and “Justice for Adil” or logos of the Klein Kasteeltje (Little Castle) where he lived for a while while waiting for his asylum procedure.

Via Globe Aroma, Barry soon came into contact with Jozef Wouters of Decoratelier, where he has settled permanently and with whom he collaborates on various projects. In Hof Ter Busleyden, for example, he helped design the “Neverending Park”. That’s when he started working with his wooden and felt trees. Since he was always criticizing others about the way the leaves were cut, it was suggested that he show them how he did it himself. Without realizing it, this led him to an in-depth study of the color and shape of different types of trees. This was confirmed when, during a heat wave in Cinquantenaire Park, he sat under a tree that was visibly struggling with climate change. The solution for him is to create trees that don’t need water. He plans to build a life-size tree soon, whose leaves will represent the victims of the Corona crisis.

It is not yet known where or how this tree will be created. Barry has no problem with that: “What is to come will come to me automatically,” he believes. This shows that his work is largely based on chance. If, for example, he makes a mistake, cuts the fabric wrong or makes a wrong color combination by mistake, he will never consciously correct it. The work makes itself and mistakes are part of it. So Barry says he’s not in control of his own work. “It is the work that creates itself and I am only the medium for its realization.”

This text was written following a conversation between Barry Ahmed Talib and Elias Cafmeyer in 2022.