I caught up with Burkina Faso-based French-raised set designer and visual artist Ouassila Kharoune and she took me on a ride into her fascinating world. Here, she mentions why set design is important for performance events and exhibitions..
KW: Could you please introduce yourself?
OK: My name is Ouassila Kharoune. I’m from France and I live in Ouagadougou. I’m a set designer and I draw.
KW: Do you have an education background or it’s raw talent?
OK: I started as a science student. I wanted to be a chemist till I turned 18. I had a change of mind and I entered university and got into space design.
KW: How is your process like?
OK: I don’t do this because of architecture but for a set, to create designs for performances or exhibitions. It depends on the type of space but I work more with theatre. So it’s usually about the theme, text and context.
KW: What are the difficulties and influences of the work?
OK: You have to know that it was a decision I made to live here in Burkina Faso, so I understood the difficulties beforehand. I found that there was an association of set design and that intrigued me. In France, there’s no organization like this where you have a lot of people coming together to share and coordinate set design jobs. Here, they work on a lot of events, festivals example FESPACO. It’s really interesting because there’s always something to do. The real difficulty is financial.
KW: Is it because they don’t appreciate the work of artists or don’t see the value?
OK: My job is not just art, it is technical. In theatre, here lies the big problem. They are now realizing that it’s really complex. They usually don’t think about what goes into it and don’t see set design as a real job or do not find it important. They put set design in the same box as comedians, performers, etc. They don’t think it is essential for a show, but it is. Good light, good sound, and a great background makes the event better.
KW: So you are part of a positive revolution in that direction?
OK: No, I joined the revolution. *laughs*. I joined the movement because I know the first set designer.
KW: Who is the first set designer? Is he alive?
OK: We can’t say he is alive. He is Papa Kouyaté; the first to start this work in Burkina Faso. He is a legend. I was inspired by his work. But I can’t say my work is identical to his, because we each have different approaches in the constructive process of our work. Some of the set designers are carpenters from the start, so their approach might be via woodwork. Others work with steel. Some just make the work and give no explanations as if they just coughed it out. I start my work by making a drawing first, then reproduce it in reality. I don’t follow trends. I can’t mention a single point of influence.
KW: What are you up to at the moment?
OK: I recently started making animation films with Abraham Abga. On the side, I like listening to music, dance and I like partying. *chuckles*. When I was younger, I was into a lot of activities like gymnastics, music, horse racing, drawing, etc. I tried a lot of activities but it’s only drawing that I’m still hooked onto career-wise.
KW: Does your science background influence your work?
OK: My science background makes me a critical thinker in the production process, which might not be the same with others.
KW: Would you say your past influenced your present work? Like you’re always looking to add something new?
OK: Yeah, example when I want to do a drawing, my inspiration might come from music or the streets. Also, I love drawing other people and making portraits. I’m not inspired by just one type of art, that goes to narrow the mind or view.
KW: Is there any advise you would give up and coming artists?
OK: The advice I would give up and coming artists is that they should open their minds.
KW: How much do you charge for your work?
OK: I charge according to the size of the work and also it depends on who is asking. *laughs*
Contact artist here: firstname.lastname@example.org