Gallery Cécile Fakhoury in Abidjan is pleased to present “Vestiges de la Mé“, artist Jems Koko Bi is fourth solo show in Abidjan. A powerful artistic presentation that plunges visitors into an atmosphere of duality involving human strength and the powerful beneficence of the forest.
Artist Jems Koko Bi was born in 1966 in the central-western region of Côte d’Ivoire, mainly in Sinfra. A woodcarver, commonly known as a jirignanzan, this is a Gouro ancestral heritage that has been passed down to him and is now at the heart of his artistic practice. Drawing on his art and personal history, the Ivorian artist anchors his roots in the Mé forest, transforming it into an open-air sanctuary to welcome and guide his art.
Through the delicate, inhabited gestures of Jems Koko Bi, this natural workshop sees the emergence of majestic woods, which for one reason or another have ceased to exist, and which reinvent themselves under the expertise of the artist’s artistic practice. The forms of these works recall the impetuosity of nature as well as the divergences of humanity. Oscillating between the status of poet, performer and woodcarver, Jems Koko Bi appears as a messenger of the forest.
The contemporary artist creates large-scale sculptural works that communicate his interrogations and his link with being, living and becoming. According to his logic, trees exist, and through his ancestral art, they become. It is in this logic that he asserts: “If to live is to move, change space, meet and exchange, and to exist is to be, to occupy a space permanently and act, then a tree does not live, it exists. The tree puts an end to its body’s journey and makes its existence act by changing the course of time, creating seasons which, in turn, transform it.“
Jems Koko Bi‘s open-air workshop, the Mé forest, is located in the south-east of the country, and represents the main theme of his exhibition “Vestiges de la Mé“. It is in this natural space, somewhat damaged by human will, that the artist decides to establish a dialogue between two kingdoms: Man and the forest. He reveals to the public visiting this personal place a shared history, that of a carved hand that becomes a tribute to a majestic tree that once towered in all its verticality. It’s a story about human souls compelled by forced labor to leave a vegetal vestige behind. For Jems Koko Bi, this story represents both the notions of annihilation and rebirth.
Le train de l’âme, Soul train, deals with the suffering endured during rail construction, an episode that damaged the souls of the workers. However, at the heart of this pain lies a powerful symbol: a boat, emblematic of freedom and hope for the future. These objects carved into the same wood, like a mirror effect, offer a visual of the conflicting and eternal bond that unites these two actors. For the forest and its wood remain imperishable under Jems Koko Bi’s expert hands, and the symbolism he bestows on them goes well “beyond life“.
Navigating between verticality and horizontality, the Ivorian artist appears as a mediator between two forces. Drawing on his personal history and experience, Jems Koko Bi conveys a universal message in his work. He offers us a sensitive testimony to a plant material, a sensitivity that breathes new life and beauty into this natural element.