Sculptures that coexist with a score of prints on paper and canvas, then a more conceptual installation around the flag of Côte d’Ivoire, such is presented ” Heritage “, the exhibition of the artist sculptor and performer Jems Koko Bi at the Gallery Cecile Fakhoury in Abidjan until June 05, 2021.
In his exhibition, the artist presents a definition of the concept of heritage. He believes that its nature lies in the priceless wealth that constitute the land, the environment and nature. What according to him, needs to be preserved in order to transmit them to the next generation; theme emanating from a collective choice, marking the belonging to a community, to a descent, he says.
Starting from the themes of identity and heritage with a set of unpublished works, Jems Koko Bi scrutinizes the notion of individual and collective memory, to give meaning to tributes.
It is by wanting to understand the foundations of collective identities, that he places his exhibition under the theme “Heritage“. This preoccupation joins his questioning on the notion of identity, ancestral heritage and immemorial events, dialogue with nature that he presents in his monumental sculptures and his work of engraving on wood.
In his creative process, he only executes the instructions given by the tree… He only tells the story that is transmitted to him! Nicknamed “Master of sculpture in Côte d’Ivoire”, he is classified among the heirs of the authors of Ivorian masterpieces, by the Parisian museum.
The exhibition ” Heritage ” recalls a recent history of the Ivory Coast and some aspects of intangible cultural heritage, including figurative features and insignia of the spirit of the forest, which the sculptor and performer is accustomed.
Jems Koko Bi, the master of sculpture
Sculptor and performer, Jems Koko Bi, combines this endogenous knowledge with his African history to examine notions of space and history in an ongoing reflection on his own existence. For him, art is a vehicle for the transmission of heritage. Addressing young people interested in sculpture, the contemporary artist invites them to be in permanent contact with the material, to be enduring and rigorous.
A graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf, Germany, after his training at INSAAC in Abidjan, he was influenced by the German tradition and certain Western masters such as Rodin and Brancusi. But today, he has forged his own personality and has developed a new perception in order to remain himself in his creations.
With his knife, his chainsaw and sometimes fire, the wood is transformed into a sculpture with a message and a story that tells of the ills of society, namely the struggle for power, illegal migration, differences and dominations.
The winner of the Dakar Biennial Prize in 2000 instructs through his works on history. Starting from the bloody episodes of slavery, the hideous colonial enterprise, the commercial relationships in a globalized economy. He sculpts wood that he willingly burns, to convey a message between time and contemporary history.
Originally from Gouro in Côte d’Ivoire, a region renowned for the art of sacred masks, Jems Koko Bi was forced into exile at the age of 8 because of his passion for the sacred masks of his village. He will be forcibly separated from his mother to live with his uncle in the north-east of the Ivory Coast; certainly a difficult period for the artist in the making that he was.
It was in 1922 after meeting the German artist Klaus Simon that he marked a revolution in his artistic career.
He participated in various exhibitions including ” The Divine Comedy ” presented by Simon Njami in 2014 at the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt, Germany, in 2015 at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in the United States, at the Cécile Fakhoury Gallery in Abidjan the same year with “No man’s land” and at the Quai Branly Museum in France in the exhibition “Masters of Sculpture of Côte d’Ivoire”.
He also participated in numerous international exhibitions, including the Wifredo Lam Center for Contemporary Art, the Havana Biennial in Cuba, the Ivorian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2013, 2015 and 2017.
Since then, installed in Germany, where he supervises students of various nationalities, he makes the pride of the Ivory Coast and Africa by his art.