After his solo exhibitions: “Black skins, white masks” in Paris, “On the souls of the black people” in Abidjan, the contemporary Beninese artist Roméo Mivékannin presents “Black Hosts” from April 02 to June 05, 2021 at the Cécile Fakhoury Gallery in Dakar.
Like a fertile ground for questioning, the exhibition “Black Hosties” highlights the history of Senegalese soldiers reconstructed from archival photos.
In a play of light creating a chiaroscuro, the suspended installation reveals the faces of Senegalese infantrymen painted on newspapers from 1944-1945. The passage from one work to another in the exhibition space appears to be both a place of dialogue and a confrontation of the imaginary between contemporary observers.
Inspired by Léopold Sédar Senghor’s 1948 collection of poems of the same name, the artist aims to describe the lives of Senegalese riflemen mobilized in the war effort.
These black soldiers of the French colonial force in Africa, used during the First World War, were recruited in several countries of the African continent. The presence of women and children at the side of some of them was not without its problems for the French soldiers who were content to send correspondence to maintain family ties.
Immersed in the colonial imagery and postcards that French soldiers exchanged with their families in France, the artist was struck by the representation of the women of the riflemen in the tasks of daily life.
He does not take offense, but rather arrives at a critical analysis of his images and questions the motive for choosing these shots. Was it an exotic fantasy? Of a colonial ideology or a fascination for the other? Whatever the case, for the artist these images are full of meaning and express the confused relationship between the metropolis and its colonies.
In an act of reappropriation of these images of black women, contemporary artist Romeo Mivekannin removes the pejorative gaze of image-object of which they were the victims in the lens of the colonial camera, to provoke a debate of ideas.
Romeo Mivekannin: Africa otherwise!
Of Beninese nationality, the artist Roméo Mivekannin is inspired by the background of photographic archives, iconic symbolic paintings and Western art history to express his art.
Vectors of admiration and eroticism, the ambiguous representations of black figures from Jean-Léon Gérôme’s Slave Sale (1873) to Gustave Manet’s Olympia (1863) and the first photographic portraits of the colonial monarchies of the second half of the 19th century, allow Romeo to see art differently.
From sculpture to painting, this art historian and cabinetmaker adopts an artistic creation aimed at challenging an iconography inherited from the systems of human trafficking and domination that were slavery and colonization.
From his black acrylic paintings on canvases tinted by repeated baths of elixir, the artist who was born in Bouaké in Côte d’Ivoire creates a direct and continuous link between past and contemporary history.
At the crossroads of a rewriting of collective memory and repair of an identity fracture, the artist chooses to take back the facts of these historical representations in order to invert the first speeches which are associated with them to build in all derision his own vision of the facts. The memory and the time become thus the raw material of his works which testifies of their singularity.