On the occasion of the twentieth commemoration of the Taubira law, perceiving servitude as an unspeakable atrocity, the Dukes of Brittany Palace and the Nantes History Museum, which it houses, welcomes the contemporary Beninese artist Romuald Hazoumè to confront his vision with the collections of the Nantes History Museum.
The objective of the Château des Ducs de Bretagne is to investigate the collections through decolonizing thought. « Expression(s) décoloniale(s) », which runs until November 14, 2021, presents some large works made from cans used in the traffic of adulterated gasoline between Nigeria and Benin. Powered by men at the risk of their lives, they provided fuel for most of the country.
The course of the exhibition « Expression(s) décoloniale(s) », proposes a masterpiece, placed at the entrance of the museum, which appears as a dice framed by the flip-flops left by people passing through before their deadly intersection of the Mediterranean and questions the price to pay for a better life.
From its huge courtyard to the rooms of the Museum of History, the summons is made from time to time by small contacts. In a room dedicated to the Atlantic slave trade, the Beninese artist broadcasts a simple soundtrack. These are the voices of people, tunes, moans, which tell of the fear and disease on the boat that takes them from Africa.
And a piece is added to the wooden formwork, bringing out the steerage of a slave transport. An engraving showing the Nantes transport, the Marie-Séraphique, and the more than 300 slaves who were crammed into it. And the bonds that chained them, to the truncheons used to calm them down. Or the weapons offered by the brokers to their African intermediaries.
Elements, messages, objects, models, human voices to resurrect a reality that has long been kept silent, on the grounds that Nantes was the main slave port in France, giving more than 42% of the flights of the exchange companies between 1707 and 1793.
Born in 1962 in Porto-Novo, Romuald Hazoumè is of Yoruba origin. He was deeply influenced by voodoo and grew up in a Catholic family. Given his dual culture, he encounters a conflicting situation that is reflected in the production of his masks and installations, which are not made according to Yoruba custom, but are syncretic from reused materials.
In the 1980s, he made his first sculptures from plastic cans, which, after a trivial intercession, discreetly convey his fundamental vision of African figures and political frameworks.
His materials? Garbage, old objects, which he gathers to disrupt their meaning and structure models of unprecedented importance, like his famous veils fashioned out of misuse, all other things being equal. Submissive and political, his work questions a world that overflows and whose set of experiences is cleared with vileness…
He reinvests History and his exploration translates into astonishing and striking works, assigning his responsibility against all types of enslavement, defilement, and trafficking that he draws up as definitive statements of the current floods.
Romuald Hazoumè also contacts the point of subjugation in our countries, where the most excluded play their lives for a few bucks. For him, the elites have more duties but unfortunately it is those individuals similar for a very long time, just fixed as these cans, who just want to stay in power.
But the people are not without fault because they fatalistically expect an improvement from them or from an extra-worldly insurance « Muslim, Christian, evangelist, voodoo… sometimes all at once ». However, if Romuald Hazoumè does not avoid the great configurations or atrocious subjects, such as servitude and degradation, his work is above all charged with humanity and delicacy.