From Abidjan to Dakar in December, through Cotonou in September, Beninese contemporary art will be celebrated throughout the year. This through an initiative of Beninese collector Idelphonse Affogbolo, who mobilizes artists from his country for a traveling exhibition in West Africa under the theme « Contemporary Benin ».
The initiative aims to showcase the talent of African artists, but is also a way to alert enthusiasts, collectors and policy makers on the continent on the need to acquire the works of artists from the continent.
This first stage of the project puts in the spotlight more than one hundred and fifty pieces by contemporary artists such as Laeïla Adjovi, King Houndekpinkou, Julien Sinzogan, Gerard Quenum, Nathanaël Vodouhe, and many others.
The exhibition « Contemporary Benin » presented at the Donwahi Foundation and the Amani Gallery in Abidjan offers visitors, paintings, sculptures, photographs, ceramics … etc.. Works as dissimilar from each other, but which highlight the contemporary wealth of the African continent.
At this stage of the project, the Ivorian public is discovering the artistic values of Benin. This could be extended to other countries of the African continent for years to come.
This project for the collector Idelphonse Affogbolo is an approach to tell without ethnocentrism or exclusivity, the African story to the people, through the works of art, but also to launch an appeal to African leaders so that they put in place “a fund of acquisition of works of African artists.
He also claims the need to show in Africa the best creations of these artists. A perception that embraces the ambitions of the Donwahi Foundation, created in 2008 to present and support contemporary African creation in its plurality.
The artists present at the exhibition “ContemporaryBenin
After an internship in an Indian NGO, Laeïla Adjovi acquired many technical skills in silver photography. Having a penchant for art, the journalist reporter, author, artist-researcher combines drawing and photography in her work.
As part of a project of photographs and testimonies on the wives of emigrants initiated in 2015 with the journalist Aurélie Fontaine, she photographed the wives of men who went on adventures, in search of well-being leaving behind their families.
For this artist, to photograph is to freeze the fleeting reflection of the visible world, to capture the light and to cherish this shadow wherever it exists, then to fix it on paper and dip a few words in it.
Eliane Aïsso makes black and white photographs with a touch of her own. Very attached to her native land, Benin, she is inspired by its culture to create works with a strong spiritual dimension.
Sometimes, her mediums of choice can be pastel on plastic, green paper and razor blades to create a work that looks like a painting; a feat that characterizes her work and her artistic approach.
The art history graduate, likes to revive in her creations the vestiges, the symbols and the tradition and also testifies on the female condition and the facts of society.
A graduate of the École des Beaux-Arts, Joël Degbo is an artist who reopens the debate on the notion of heritage through his paintings and videos.
The artist unveils images of the past compared to the present in order to project the future. The particularity of his paintings lies in his ability to act on the visitor’s gaze, who can only see according to his position.
She dedicates her art to the struggle for the emancipation of African women. Creative and avant-garde, she reoriented her life towards photography after her student career.
Her artistic work tends towards the knowledge of the human being, his environment, his characters, his cultural practices, his history and sometimes his predestination.
Favoring the photogram technique over the camera, her method consists of placing objects on photosensitive paper and lighting them to bring out spectral traces, successions of transparencies in order to create the forms of cult objects of her animist tradition.
A student of master ceramist Kayoko Hayasaki, artist King Houndekpinkou has shown a particular interest in traditional Japanese culture by initiating himself into the practice of ceramics in Bizen, Japan.
Working between Benin and Japan, the ceramic artist fuses clay from several continents to create works that bring out his initiatory experiences of encounters between cultures. Each of his creations is made in several stages, the first in Japan, the second in Benin and the last in France. The one who is nicknamed the Picasso of art pottery combines the essences essential to life: “water, earth, air and fire”, to allow the spiritual energies to express themselves.
Landscape artist and portraitist, Gregory Olympio is divided between the French, Togolese and Beninese cultures. Based in France, he is a kind of bridge that makes African culture shine.
In search of the contours of this plural culture, he is interested in the borders, in all these more or less tangible spaces which connect or separate, according to the place where one is.
Trained at the Rijksakademie Van Beeldende Kunsten, the painter-videographer, social archaeologist, Thierry Oussou lives between Benin and the Netherlands.
He is today an asserted draughtsman thanks to the support of the contemporary artist Edwige Aplogan, who enrolled him in a workshop of expression where he was able to expose his know-how. Today, he submits in his creations the cultural realities of the Beninese tradition by privileging masks and abstract graphic compositions, energy necessary to the exercise of animist cults.
Sculptor and painter, the artist Gerard Quenum advocates a temporal, geographical and cultural crossbreeding by confronting traditions and modernities in his paintings and installations.
Based in Benin, where he lives and works, he presents in his paintings scenes of life freely positioned in the two-dimensional space of the canvas. These flat areas, colored predominantly blue and black on a white background, are often done in a minimal format as if to get to the essence.
His works, other sculptures made of old dolls, depict the injustice suffered by children manipulated, enlisted in conflicts, drugged, sick, abandoned in the world. A way to bring out his sense of horror and revolt.
Like the birds that weave nests, Remy Ama Sossouvi has chosen to twist, braid, assemble and weave wires since his childhood. He models sculptures, giving them the shape of characters, funny and sometimes surprising animals!
His artistic work deals with various themes, relating to the environment, society, gender, or the evils that plague Africa.
Julien Sinzogan was born in 1957 in Porto-Novo. He lived and worked in France for nearly thirty years, and recently returned to his native Benin.
His work deals with various themes highlighting the facts of society, the female condition, the traditional way of life while exploring the journeys between the physical existence and the spiritual realm.
He also often invokes in his works a return home of the spirits of ancestral slaves who left for the Americas. A particular way for him to honor the memory of the deportees who perished in this ignoble trade.
Former press cartoonist, painter and photographer Francis Nicaise Tchiakpè has become a militant painter, who exhibits and sells throughout the world, while remaining anchored in Cotonou.
Self-taught and a draughtsman since childhood, he paints his pictures with natural pigments, sometimes with acrylic and/or oil paint while favoring red, blue and yellow ochres in most of his compositions.
Today, the artist has opened a cultural space that bears his name, wants to engage, challenge and try to act on the mentality.
Painter, sculptor and visual artist, Julien Vignikin has gradually evolved in the practice of art. From drawing, he creates installations using recycled materials, and has also passed through painting and sculpture.
This initiatory journey makes the singularity of his artistic style. This allows him to reflect in his works a critical look at society and its emotions.
The artist who between tradition and modernity, is part of a double identity, mixes Western art and African heritage in order to positively influence his environment.
Working with wood, which he willingly burns according to the message he wants his figurative character to carry, the artist-painter and sculptor Nathanael Vodouhe is based in Cotonou.
Defender of the human being and opposed to the destruction that consumerism generates, he denounces and fights against tobacco and its harmful consequences on human health through his giant wooden sculptures.
The artist Nathanaël Vodouhe sculpts busts with particular care to represent cigarette sticks that are consumed at the expense of their elegant and refined forms.
Self-taught and versatile, the works of the artist Dominique Zinkpè bear the marks of a Beninese mysticism. Internationally recognized, he sculpts statuettes of ibèdjis, a representation of deceased twins, to help ease the pain of parents.
Beyond their aesthetic and beauty, the sacred side of the ibèdjis makes the originality of the creation of this artist who, sometimes, devotes himself to drawing, painting, performance and installations. Originally from Abomey, he uses his painting to transcribe the soul and energy of the deities; a sort of highlighting of the cultural practices of his home. His artistic creations generally evoke power games, sexuality, socio-cultural facts and sometimes politics.