Marius Dansou is a Beninese artist sculptor who works mainly wood and metal to create hairstyles, faces … lives. Eclectic and committed, Marius does not define himself as an African artist, but rather as an artist, quite simply. On Art MEDIA went to meet this creative with an atypical background and vision.
Artist since childhood
Born on January 12, 1984 in Benin, Marius Dansou began to let his creativity speak from his childhood. Using his father’s hammer and screwdrivers, the budding artist created his first works of art on wooden boards that he brought home after his classes. One day, while fiddling around in a corner of his house, he caught the attention of the artist Zinkpè (Dominique Zinkpè), a close friend of his father.
Very quickly, the man takes him under his wing and accompanies him in his first steps in his studio. Working alongside many artists as an assistant, he learns the inner workings of artistic painting. His first artistic work is therefore a canvas. It was bought by an enthusiast who was simply passing by Zinkpè’s studio.
At the end of his studies, Marius moved away from painting and turned towards the plastic arts, with a particular attraction for wood and metal work. This will be his trademark! This original choice gives his work a unique identity. Combining wood scraps from pirogues and concrete iron, Marius Dansou’s creations represent faces, various shapes, but also and especially African hairstyles and braids.
Very active, Marius Dansou has already participated and organized several exhibitions in Benin and other countries of the sub-region such as Togo, Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire. But his work is also known outside the continent thanks to the various events in which he has participated: artists’ workshops in Belleville in Paris, exhibitions at the Vallois Gallery in Belgium and in London.
At the microphone of the editorial staff of On Art MEDIA, the Beninese artist talks about cultural identity, artistic philosophy, his sources of inspiration, his dreams and his projects.
Interview of Marius Dansou
On Art MEDIA: Hello Marius Dansou
Marius Dansou : Hello
On Art MEDIA: So, tell us, why the meeting of wood and metal?
Marius Dansou: Why this meeting? I don’t know, I can’t give a fixed explanation for that. It’s like when you leave home one morning and you meet a beautiful woman in the street… Do you expect it? No, I don’t expect it. I think that the meeting happened alone and then I married her for my sensibility. I think it’s much more that. It’s the heart talking…
On Art MEDIA: Does your art have a specific identity?
Marius Dansou: A specific identity… If I had to introduce myself, for example, I would say that I am a sculptor, performer and installer.
On Art MEDIA: How do you define your art?
Marius Dansou: I am against categorizations. For these questions, I say that I am an artist, quite simply. To say that I am an African artist, I don’t know: do we need to confirm identity while we already have an identity? It’s an addition and therefore, it doesn’t make sense. I present myself as an artist and whether I am black, white, yellow or red, I don’t see any difference.
On art MEDIA: What triggers your creative impulse?
Marius Dansou: I think I define art as my life. Art is my life, it’s what I feel. It’s what’s inside of me. I can define it as a trigger. It is what I feel, it is my feelings.
On Art MEDIA: What is the difference between amateur and professional?
Marius Dansou: I’m not going to talk about difference, but I’ll talk more about continuity, a continuation. Everything has a beginning and it is the beginning that brought me to sculpture. It’s true that I started with painting, but afterwards, in relation to personal questioning, I told myself as an artist: “painting is really not my thing”. It’s true that the first work I sold was a painting. But here, I don’t do painting at all; it’s only sculpture, it took over.
On Art MEDIA: Why this link with hairdressing in your work ?
Marius Dansou: The change, I feel it when I do exhibitions, especially with my braided sculptures. People find themselves in the hairstyles, that is to say the delirium of the hairstyle, and in the delirium of freedom, because I also talk about freedom in my sculptures. On the other hand, people are blocked at a certain moment. I am confronted with questions like: “I work in administration, but I can’t wear this to work”. So people see the extreme side of the thing and it’s this audacity that I put into the sculptures.
On Art MEDIA: An artist’s dream that inspires your creation…
Marius Dansou : In my work, I was inspired by Ojeikere who is a very great photographic artist that I like very much. I had a dream: to make an exhibition with him. I even went to Lagos on purpose. Unfortunately, the year it was supposed to happen, he passed away.
Coming back a little bit to my inspirations, I think that what interests me in hair and hairdressing is the texture, the aesthetics and the beauty of the hair. That’s what’s pretty interesting. Afterwards, I didn’t get stuck. Today, for example, I don’t talk about braids anymore. It’s true that at first I was inspired by the African braid, but today I talk more about hair because I don’t want to give my work too restricted an identity. As a result, I can be inspired by Asian, American, European, etc. hairstyles. I talk more about hair.
On Art MEDIA: A memory of your time at the Zinkpè school ?
Marius Dansou: Let’s say that at Zinkpé, it’s a school for me. In this school, in this workshop, a lot happens. What I found quite interesting there is that if you have the thing we’re talking about, you come, you take and you leave. Zinkpè is an artist that I love, that I love very much and he is in his own world. Now, you don’t come to confuse him in his world. Come into his world, take what you have to take and leave.
On Art MEDIA: How far along is the project “Art in the villages”?
Marius Dansou: I think it’s a pretty interesting project because it’s much more about bringing art to places where people don’t necessarily expect it. Even in Cotonou, when you talk about art, sometimes it’s limited, even for people who have a certain level and who say they are quite intellectual. But then again, it’s true that art is not accessible to everyone. On the other hand, this project in the villages makes it possible to decentralize a little. In addition, for us artists, it allows us to meet these people who have nothing to do with art. For me, the look and the speech of these people are touching. Sometimes it nourishes us as artists.
On Art MEDIA: According to you, what are the needs of artists for the development of art?
Marius Dansou: Speaking of which, I think that artists need places of expression, galleries. We need to get our works out of our studios. We really need spaces of expression, galleries that meet the standards, not a bedroom as a showroom. I think the artist has already done the job, the work is there. Today, when you take an artist like Romuald Hazoumé and you want to focus on him, the work is there. There is already material. The artist has already done the work. Now it’s up to you to do yours!
Find the video interview on Onart MEDIA’s Youtube channel.