"If I did not have faith in God, I would not have survived," said Moussa Gueye of the terrible ordeal that he underwent in his homeland of Mauritania, Africa. Gueye was a successful architect, with a wife and three young daughters, until the day he was suddenly arrested in 2002, and thrown in jail. Mauritania, is a country under a corrupt Islamic authoritarian regime that randomly arrests well-educated people and others for not declaring a political party, considering such citizens to be a threat to the government. For six months, Gueye was tortured and beaten until a guard at the jail offered to help him escape for the right price. Gueye's wife sold his car and other items to gather the money. Gueye escaped from the jail and went into hiding in a nearby village. His family feared for their safety as well and fled to Senegal. Gueye then fled to the United States in 2003, leaving his family behind for the time being. He first lived in Iowa City, before moving to Dubuque.
Gueye's educational credentials in Mauritania did not qualify him to be licensed as an architect in the U.S. without additional training, which he could not afford, and he began washing cars and working as a dishwasher in a restaurant to support himself and his family back home. With his background in architecture, fine art was a natural extension, and Gueye began to create artwork in 2004, "...to combat loneliness and depression," he said.
In Dubuque, through the Rotary Club, he met Doug Stillings, then a Senior Vice President at Dubuque Bank and Trust. Stillings was instrumental in helping Gueye through purchasing his artwork and providing moral support. "He is a great figure who has a big heart," said Gueye. "I do not have enough words to thank him." Stillings has been instrumental in providing and seeking additional funds to bring Gueye to Divine Word.
While Gueye's artwork was abstract in the beginning and was based upon his terrible experience in Mauritania, about five years ago, he was ready to move on. Deciding to focus on the best of human nature rather than the worst, Gueye began creating themes of peace and love. He will be showing some sculpture, but primarily collage and found items mounted to canvas, usually with brightly colored acrylic backgrounds. "Because the jail was so dark, maybe that's the reason I use bright colors," said Gueye.
In 2008, Gueye was granted political asylum here for humanitarian reasons. That same year, he moved to New Haven, Connecticut to be close to the New York City art scene. That same year, Gueye was able to pay for his family to move to the U.S. as well. The Gueyes still live in Connecticut, welcoming a baby girl on our soil and one granddaughter.
Divine Word College in Epworth, heard of Gueye's story through Stillings who is on the Board of Trustees for the college. Thanks to the generosity of Stillings and others, The Weyland Art Gallery at Divine Word will be hosting a retrospective exhibition called, "An African Journey", consisting of 25 pieces of Gueye's work with an opening reception on Thursday, September 26, from 5-7:00pm. He will give a gallery talk at 5:30. He will also be speaking at the Multicultural Center in Dubuque on September 25.