My name is Saihou Omar Njie and I was born in Banjul, The Gambia, West Africa.
When I was a little kid, I enjoyed the company of creative people. I was brought up by Artists. My mother was a craftswoman who loved and worked miracles with fabric. She always sang while engaged in her craft. I helped my mother in her work and discovered the magic of color and patterning on textiles. My father was a merchandiser but lived his life in the way of an artist… generous, quick-witted, funny and spiritual. My older brother was very good in drawing without any formal training. I admired his skills and tried to copy him a lot.
My father was cognizant of our interest in art ( my brother and I) and encouraged us. He found us a tutor in drawing, at a time when, in our society, art was not an important priority in a kid’s life. He trained me to be a creative thinker by his commentaries on matters about life. He encouraged me to be open to and, to be tolerant of points of view that are different from mine. My favorite times were when my father and I spent the time discussing the imagery we saw in the cloud formations in the African evening skies. Such was the environment of my formative years. By the way, my mentor- brother chose a different career path and became an accountant!
My love for adventure brought me to the USA in 1971, when I was twenty-one years old. From pursuing Art and Architecture at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, to the times when I was a dancer/ percussionist with the African Arts Ensemble of Boston, and working as a photographer for The New Pittsburgh Courier, I am still doing art. Art is my calling and my medium is Batik. It comes to me naturally because I grew up doing it with my mother. Batik is a wax-resist process in fabric design. Starting with white fabric, the shape that is wax in, will remain white when the piece is dyed in a color. For example, when you wax a triangle shape on white fabric and then dye the piece black, the result will be a white triangle against a black background. The process involves a lot of layering of wax and dyes.
My work is superimposed imagery that is both colorful and abstract. It has as many interpretations as there are viewers. My aim is for my work to have a sense of freshness about them,no matter how long they are around.
The differences of interpretation of the artwork are a reminder of my father; my mother's memory is kept alive every time that I am engaged in making batik. I have been taught well in ways that have resulted in me trying to live life gently, and to touch lives positively. My parents and my brother were great role models. Doing batik allows me to spiritually connect with my roots and beyond... with those cultures and people that have practiced it for many centuries around the world. I am also connected in the same manner, with all of my patrons.
Batik has become naturally what is mine to do. It is sacred; It is like meditation, enjoyable and calming and I lose myself in it. I am on the roster of Teaching Artists for The Pennsylvania Council on The Arts, and The Pittsburgh Center For The Arts. With this work,I have the honor and privilege of meeting and working with young people throughout the State of Pennsylvania. My hope is that I am helping in the making of future leaders and responsible citizens of this beautiful world.
Though I cannot be a doctor, a physicist, a great musician etc, but if these professionals enjoy my work, and it makes them feel peaceful in their work, I will have become part of their process.
The late Mr. Fred Rogers is a man that I have great respect for and draw inspiration from. He had a calling to bring inspiration into the lives of his young audiences… and adults too. It was therefore an honor that I was invited to do a segment about batik on Mister Rogers Neighborhood.
Doing what you love for a living is a great blessing. I am living fully in this dynamic thing called ART.
Long live the passion for all things beautiful!
Saihou O. Njie (SONJIE)