(CNN) Would you hang this coffee on your wall?

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By Heenali Patel, for CNN

Updated 1415 GMT (2215 HKT) March 3, 2016

Turay says the key to success as an artist is building a strong brand, marketing it as much as possible. « You can’t sit in your studio waiting for opportunities to come, » says Turay. « You’ve got to get out there and start marketing. Through that I’ve started to get a lot of collectors where I’m currently based, here in Morocco. »

« Picasso was a master at marketing, » says Turay. « He knew how to promote his world and himself. That is what’s missing in the African arts. If you really want people to understand your art, it has to be marketed properly. It needs to have a brand, and with the Internet nowadays, you can have everything for free. »

« A friend of mine in the U.S. recently told me that two homeless people died on the streets, just in the last two days. It was in the city I come from, Washington D.C. That inspired me to make this piece, » says Turay of his artwork « Rich In Your Heart ».

« I have those two combinations of cultures struggling in my soul, » he says. « I think my paintings reflect that because you can see something very African in them, but also a very contemporary style, like street art. »

Turay’s career took off in 2013 after winning the Jack Bell prize, a London-based program aimed at supporting young artists across Africa. His pieces now fetch up to $13,000 each. His collectors include Charles Saatchi and former French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s ex-wife Cécilia Attias.

« It’s really about finding your own collectors and people that will follow you all the way, » adds Turay. « When the Saatchi Gallery bought 17 of my pieces, that took me to another level. Despite that, I still feel like I’m only just starting out as an artist. »

Coffee is a major export of Ivory Coast, and Turay uses it in his art to celebrate his home country. « I add glue to thicken the coffee, so that I can work it just like acrylic paint, » he says. « I spread it, add colored paper, and work it up in layers. It’s a slow process but each time it dries, it starts to morph, and the face begins to appear by itself. »

« The best way for me to celebrate black beauty is to express myself with beautiful, bright colors, » he adds.

His piece « Mona Africa » is inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s « Mona Lisa », and is a special tribute to the human fossil « Lucy » discovered in Ethiopia in

the 1970’s. « Lucy was the first woman to trace us back to the origins of humanity, » says Turay.

Turay admires and identifies with Jean-Michel Basquiat, an African-American artist who gained fame in the 1970s and 80s. « He didn’t have any boundaries around who inspired him, » he adds. « I don’t like boundaries either, which is why you can see the influence of Basquiat, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali in my paintings. »

Turay says the key to success as an artist is building a strong brand, marketing it as much as possible. « You can’t sit in your studio waiting for opportunities to come, » says Turay. « You’ve got to get out there and start marketing. Through that I’ve started to get a lot of collectors where I’m currently based, here in Morocco. »

Mederic Turay, currently exhibiting at the BCK Gallery in Marrakesh, creates art from coffee and sells each piece for thousands of dollars.

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/03/03/africa/gallery/turay-coffee-artist-ivory-coast/index.html

 

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