“Complex, passionate and honest”, that’s how Marie Wilma Sickout Assele, the Gabonese decorator and art critic, describes herself. I’d add that’s she’s also spontaneous and wears her heart on her sleeve…
The owner for some years now of the Kay-Anne art gallery, Wilma is now in the spotlight since it reopened. “My gallery is a blend of established creators and those who deserve to be supported, exhibited. The Kay-Anne Galerie is a genuine crossroads for artists”, she says.
It would seem that Wilma’s career was destined to enter the world of art and aesthetics. Born on 21 November 1974 in Libreville, as a little girl she already dreamt of being Inspector Gadget, Columbo, and then a designer. “I began my adventure selling clogs door-to-door. As soon as my first child was born, I wanted to be successful, responsible. My passion for art was born of my desire to be a designer. But I liked everything that looked beautiful inside”, she says.
So Wilma turned to design and fostered a real obsession for statues, masks and other art objects. This was not – back then – to the taste of some of her relatives, but that didn’t deter Wilma Sickout Assele, who transformed her passion into a job. “There is nothing more pleasurable than carving a career out of your passion. Earning a living from your passion is a wonderful thing, but it does require a lot of sacrifice, and indeed self-sacrifice. Most importantly, you shouldn’t be afraid of taking the plunge. An artist is an outsider by definition”, she adds with emotion.
But overnight everything collapsed around her: her marriage, her art gallery, her family, her friends… Wilma lost everything. Shaken, she became deeply depressed for seven long years. She was close to going mad. “The woman I am today has experienced real tragedy. However, the fundamentals of my new life took root during this extremely difficult period that I have been able to capitalise on. I won’t go into detail; the release of my new book will reveal more”.
I know a lot of major African creators and this is how we work. I have agents, but I also travel myself
She needed the power of art as a therapy to drag her from this numbness and heal her. By clinging to art, she ended up clinging to life. Wilma Sickout Assele is formal: art has undeniable healing powers. “Indeed, there are some hospitals that have understood this and work closely with artists to organise exhibitions. Being ill is also a psychological state, you know. You therefore have to heal the body at the same time as you heal the mind. I myself am an example of healing through art”.
Recovered and appeased, Wilma was back with a vengeance and determined to breathe life into her art gallery. She achieved this in September 2018 with the reopening of the Kay-Anne Galery, renovated and filled with new art acquisitions from all around the African continent. “I know a lot of major African creators and this is how we work. I have agents, but I also travel myself”.
She wants to establish a connection between Gabon and the rest of the world through her gallery. With the number of nationalities represented in her Kay-Anne gallery, you can see that Wilma has an in-depth knowledge of African art. “It no longer needs any introduction. It has crossed the continent’s borders and exports very well. African art is shaking up the rulebook abroad. Amazing things are being done on this continent. African artists have been able to create unbelievable synergies. Look, for example, at the number of nationalities represented in the Kay-Anne Galery. I fervently hope that this gallery will become a part of my country’s cultural heritage”.
Open to the world but with a particular passion for her own continent, Wilma Sickout Assele has difficulty moderating her commitment for the wellbeing of those around her. “Without wanted to appear pretentious, I’d like to be remembered as a citizen of the world, and in particular a citizen of the African continent. I like to define myself as being of “African nationality, Gabonese descent”. It’s not Man that is important, but the actions we undertake for the good of the greatest number of people”.
As well as being the founder of an art gallery, Wilma also runs a foundation. Hyperactive, in the coming months she is planning to open another gallery in a second African capital: Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, a country she today considers to be a second home. Her recovery began in that western African country: “I was able to cure my depression and rebuild my career with the support of my friends throughout Africa, and in particular Côte d’Ivoire, a country that gave me a second birth and one in which I was able to perfect my expertise in the field of art”.
She will also strive to promote her new project by advocating an end to the taboos surrounding depression through various conferences. “My foundation team and I are also working on a project at the residents premises of the Libreville mental health facility”.
To the young Africans she regularly rubs shoulders with and who are also her source of inspiration, she continually provides the following advice: “There is nothing more pleasurable than carving a career out of your passion. Earning a living from your passion is a wonderful thing, but it does require a lot of sacrifice, and indeed self-sacrifice. Most importantly, you shouldn’t be afraid of taking the plunge. Go for it and tear up the rulebook. An artist is an outsider by definition”.