The way I gain a living is through selling my art in the streets of Barcelona.
My name is Moussa Diop, I’m 46 years old, and I’m from Dakar in Senegal. I left Senegal in 2007. Many people leave Africa because the life there is tough – people go in search for a better life.
The neighborhood where I was born was not wealthy and had a lot of vulnerable families and economic hardships. I grew up by doing many artisanal and artistic projects with the homeless kids who lived there, so they could have better tools to gain a living in such a difficult situation.
In 2011, due to the difficulties I was facing at the time, I decided to go to Europe. My plan was to keep doing these projects, with the goal of helping children in need. My idea was that Europe had many more opportunities for possible partnerships, which could help grow my projects.
My first stop was the Spanish Balearic island of Mallorca, where I worked for 4 years. I came back to Senegal to get my papers in order since I was planning on going to Germany with a friend I had met. I ended up going to France, where I did not stay for long. The life there wasn’t what I expected, so I moved to Barcelona, where I’ve lived for the past 3 years.
The way I gain a living is through selling my art in the streets of Barcelona. People already recognize me as the man who does paintings that combine paint and scraps of aluminum that I cut from used beer cans.
Despite the difficulties, people help me a lot. They see that I’m doing something – something original and artistic. Some buy the paintings, others give me money or food, and most motivate me to keep going.
However, since I don’t have my documents, I have no help from the state whatsoever. I sleep in the street, be it Summer or Winter. I’ve slept in many places in Barcelona; the more experienced you are, the less hard it gets. But I have to be honest, things are never easy – everyday is a new battle.
As we Africans know, we are the last priority when it comes to getting help with social benefits. First come the Europeans, then the Latinos, and only finally us Africans. I’ve tried to get them several times, and the best they’ve replied is: “I can give you some food, but you have to pick it up in Sitges (two hours away from Barcelona)” – needless to say, it would be more than impractical to do the roundtrip every day.
Now, with the current pandemic, life has become increasingly difficult. All the tourists are gone, and very few people roam the streets, which means my chances of selling my art have decreased substantially. I hope that this virus will go away soon, but I fear things will only get worse.
The future I want, once this has passed, is to keep doing my projects. I want to create a partnership with Senegal, so that I can help the children there. I want them to have better chances in life. Let’s hope that the suffering everyone went through due to this disease helps us to have more solidarity and empathy towards each other in the future.