GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Guinea-born artist is painting a vivid, large-scale mural in downtown Grand Rapids to spread his message of togetherness.
Abdoulaye Conde grew up in Guinea, then moved to Chicago in 2022. Now, he is in Grand Rapids to paint a mural for ArtPrize 2023.
In mid-August, Conde started painting “Raining Wisdom” at 45 Ottawa Ave. NW. The massive project measures 30 feet by 66 feet. It is one of the Top 25, meaning Conde could win the $125,000 grand prize.
The mural, which is characterized by vibrant colors, includes depictions of elephants and humans interacting peacefully. It’s all painted in Conde’s personal style: “Gnabassan,” which he described as a representation of human unity.
Conde told News 8 that in Guinea, there are several ethnic groups and people speak different languages.
“That’s caused some problems,” he explained.
Conde said he would rather see people be together.
“We are the same, the same all. We are from the earth. We just have to be together to make a love, to be like this,” the artist said, intertwining his fingers.
That, Conde said, was the essence of Gnabassan — a multitude of colors woven together.
“When we are like this (together) … nothing can break us,” he said, referencing safety and protection. “We are beautiful together.”
Conde told News 8 that art was his passion and motivation.
“It’s my good time now in life. When I do the arts, I am feeling good. I am so happy,” he explained. “Art makes me strong.”
The artist hopes to pass that joy to everyone who sees his mural, no matter who they are or where they’re from.
“The mural (is) here to make people happy … to be together, to have unity, prosperity — the good of life,” Conde said.
He explained that he purposefully left a spot in “Raining Wisdom” for people to take pictures and partake in the mural’s blessings.
“The picture can be like you are inside this picture, because it’s raining wisdom,” Conde said. “Like the wall art is coming with you. You are taking the wisdom, too.”
— News 8’s Madalyn Buursma contributed to this report.