The Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College welcomes the solo exhibition “Romuald Hazoumè :The Fâ series” to its art space. An inspiring artistic presentation of the contemporary African artist’s study of Fâ, a West African divination system. Until December 22, 2023, Romuald Hazoumè immerses the art museum and visitors alike in the fascinating world of African spirituality. This captivating exhibition offers a unique insight into African culture and highlights the importance of preserving ancestral traditions.
A Beninese artist of international renown, his works have been featured in the world’s leading art venues. Romuald Hazoumè was asked to join the cohort of four outstanding artists selected to represent Benin in its first national pavilion at the 60th Venice Biennale, and is known for his authentic, hard-hitting style that reveals the realities of African society. He drew inspiration from his study of Fâ to create this series of twenty-two large-scale works on canvas, mainly dating from the mid-1990s.
Originating in the Yoruba-speaking communities of Nigeria, where it is known as Ifá, Fâ is a centuries-old system of knowledge and religious practice. Since then, the practice of divination has spread to other parts of West Africa, notably to the Republic of Benin, where the African artist lives, and elsewhere in the diaspora. The Fâ religion is made up of a codified system of signs and various combinations of 16 different symbols, and this set of complex, decipherable signs testifies to all the wisdom and teachings of this religious practice. In 2005, this literary corpus was proclaimed intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO, to encourage its ongoing transmission.
By studying this African divinity, Romuald Hazoumè has been able to design works based on the same traditional visual lexicon, evoking while preserving sacred knowledge through symbols and glyphs. The artist’s work focuses on divinatory practices in Benin and neighboring West African countries, as well as his interest in other African symbolic languages. Made from natural pigments, a combination of acrylic paint and organic materials, Romuald Hazoumè sees his canvases not as paintings in the traditional sense, but rather as an archive of sacred symbols that presents and preserves part of the continent’s spiritual culture.
The artist sees his series of works as deeply rooted in his Beninese-African culture, presenting them as the fruit of a constant journey of self-discovery. These canvases, previously kept in the shadows, are both intimate and introspective, exploring the quest for knowledge, an ideal at the heart of his artistic practice. This artistic presentation of “Romuald Hazoumè:The Fâ series” was made by Tracy Fitzpatrick, Director of the Neuberger Museum of Art, after her visit to the artist’s studio, where she discovered his personal pieces imbued with a gripping spiritual narrative. She says: “During a trip to Benin in winter 2018, I was invited to visit the artist’s studio in Porto Novo. There, I was able to discover many works already known in the United States and discover paintings that until now had only been shown or illustrated sporadically. The Neuberger is proud to be the first museum to focus exclusively on these works, which have such deep personal significance for the artist, and to communicate the importance of this powerful cosmology of knowledge to a wider audience.“
“Romuald Hazoumè : The Fâ series” will be curated by Christa Clarke, independent curator, art historian and senior advisor at the Center for Curatorial Leadership. The exhibition will also be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog with essays by Clarke and Didier Houénoudé, Professor of Art History at the University of Abomey-Calavi in Cotonou, Benin. It’s an unforgettable artistic experience that transports visitors to a mystical world deeply rooted in African culture. Through this important body of work, the Beninese artist invites reflection on the importance of preserving ancestral traditions. “The Fâ series” is a celebration of African art, spirituality and cultural richness, and an invitation to explore and understand the world from a new angle.