In a perspective of making the world discover our dialects which contain our memories and are the keys to the launching of our customs. The contemporary artist Sènami Donoumassou makes discover the universe of a past existence where we find our origins.
Through her solo show “Xógbé” at Le Centre de Lobozounkpa, in Benin she puts forward the “Fâ”, incredible and liberating advisor of the multitude of gods who lower themselves before him. She relates this author of destiny and proposes an exploration of the elements of our theoretical social heritage, focusing specifically on family panegyrics, Fà writing, sayings and stories.
The exhibition “Xógbé” proposes an exchange between customary and imported religions, which coincide in daily existence, through imaginative recommendations floating around mancies, petitions and our relationship to the dead, and tends towards the idea of interpretation, questioning the place of orality in our practices and contemporary society, and also stages the untranslatable, those words that are difficult to decipher and decrypt.
The exhibition “Xógbé“, Sènami Donoumassou gives body, plastically, to what is not matter, as a potential approach to protect the elusive social heritage, erected in one of the best abundances of Benin. An approach to notify relentlessly the need to secure and defend the foundations of our collective and individual character.
“Xógbé” a multiple journey through several works
Akɔ mlă family panegyrics.
In a series of 12 photograms on silver baryta paper, Sènami Donoumassou offers twelve representations to introduce us to this committed pan of panegyrics, a conventional type of eulogistic narration that relates and praises the historical backdrop of a family, a group, a local region: distinguished realities, customs, values, restrictions, emblems, etc.
They are told on the occasion of incredible ceremonies, but also always to calm, relax or praise the gratitude of those to whom they are addressed. They are passed on, as a legacy, from one age to the next. Although they are important for certain traditions, here and elsewhere, they are disappearing under the effect of globalization and are destined to disappear.
These photograms are accompanied by a soundtrack made up of a series of panegyrics that the artist obtained during his process of exploration and creation.
On a series of 16 photograms on baryta silver paper, Sènami Donoumassou proposes “Fà gbésisà” the moral stories, incantatory words or adages that characterize the information innate in Fà.
A divinatory art, Fà – originating from Ilé Ifè, in the ancient kingdom of Oyo in Nigeria – occupies an important place in most of the lifestyles of the people of Benin. Beyond its divinatory perspective, the Fà is declined in different types of writings which are essentially: the Fà gbésisà, the Fàgléta (stories related to the indications of the Fà) and the Fàhan (tunes that unfold the historical background of the indications of the Fà).
Through an organization oscillating between tarot and polaroid, Sènami Donoumassou stages the similarities and dissimilarities of two mancies: geomancy (Fà) and cartomancy, two divinatory expressions practiced in different societies. The Fà gbésisà series presents works that take up the noemes, moral allegories, of the sixteen primary indications of Fà.
A series of 7 drawings Paper, espresso, ink which presents the maxims, carried out on paper matured with espresso, they reverberate the bas-reliefs, important speciality of the kingdom of Danxomè. Each work delineates a Fon saying as if to convey the meaning hidden within it, the relationship to nature, to men and to divine beings in Fon culture.
An in situ installation Lamp, mat, stool, texts and a story to project each of the visitors into a twilight night. Hwenuxό presents three distinct interpretations of the same story thus staging, what is lost and what remains, during the interpretation of our tales in French. It also highlights the customary spaces of transmission that are also disappearing…
With a dominance of a figure of Asɛn, ceremonial objects, Sènami Donoumassou brings her take on the act of praying to the dead in imported and customary religions and reminds us that in the Vodoun religion, the deceased is applauded and frequently solicited by contributions. This formation mostly takes place following a discussion of the Fà or during a huge family ceremony dedicated to the deceased in the family.
Imported religions, on the other hand, appeal to God for the repose of the spirit of the deceased.
Through this installation, the artist further allows us to discover the ubiquity of this act of supplication that transcends beliefs and religions to have a place during services.
Composed of three Asɛɛn (compact raised spaces dedicated to the deceased), this installation reveals the different parts of the request to the precursors (raised spaces, contributions, personalized objects…). Joined by a soundtrack of places in connection, the prayers of the Muslim, Catholic and Vodoun religions, as if to inspire an idea of synchretism.
Visual artist, transdisciplinary, Sènami Donoumassou investigates in her creative practice, the thoughts of character, heritage and history.
She tests, through her manifestations, oscillating between photograms, protean installations and drawings, the extent of the possibilities and wonders of light. Since the installation “Who am I?” for the exhibitions “Amazons” and “Invisible – Sovereign Women” at the French Institute, she has proposed a recade for the ousted queen of the Danxomè kingdom Tassi Hangbé. This was followed by a group exhibition “Didé” alongside Chléophée Moser, Sarah Trouche and Mounia Youssef at the French Institute in Cotonou.
A few months later, she was awarded a creative residency at the Studio national des arts contemporains – Le Fresnoy where she explored in an interesting way the photogram for its allegorical, plastic and aesthetic aspects through the realization of an installation and the series Bibliothèque de cellules. This new breath that transports her to her first monographic exhibition “Chemistry of traces”.
Presented in the group exhibition “Contemporary Benin” at the Donwahi Foundation in Abidjan, it is also on “Art of Benin, yesterday and today: from restitution to revelation” at the Palace of the Presidency of Benin and will be at the African Meetings of Photography in Bamako this year.
The exhibition “Xógbé” will be open until August 14, 2022 at Le Centre de Lobozounkpa.