The Gallery of African Art (GAFRA) in partnership with L’association ELOWA is pleased to present a group exhibition of paintings and sculptures from the Republic of Benin in West Africa.
The exhibition, which is part of GAFRA’s successful ‘POP-UP AFRICA’TM series, also brings to an end the gallery’s groundbreaking residency on Cork Street. ‘POP-UP AFRICA’TM was conceived as a platform for African based galleries or organisations to gain greater visibility for their artists internationally. The four artists featured in the exhibition are Rafiy Okefolahan, Marius Dansou, Dominique Zinkpè, and Remy Samuz. The participating artists all live and practice in their home country of Benin and the themes, subject matter, medium and style of works on display point to the rich diversity of Beninese art production.
Created in 2008 by artist Rafiy Okefolahan, L’association ELOWA is dedicated to promoting the Beninese visual arts sector and facilitating artistic exchanges between Benin and France. In 2010, the association launched the Waba festival, an event which showcases works from around the country. Held in galleries in Porto Novo and Cotonou, the festival aims to initiate dialogue between all sections of society about the role which art plays. The latest event orgainsed by the organisation was ‘L’un et L’autre’.
Opening: 5th December 2014
Private View: Tuesday, 9th December 2014, 6:00pm – 8:30pm
Opening times: Monday – Friday, 10am-6pm and Saturday, 11am-4pm
Gallery of African Art,
9 Cork Street,
London W1S 3LL
Rafiy Okefolahan was born in 1979 in Porto Novo and works across the spheres of painting, photography, video, and installation. He studied at the École Nationale des Arts de Dakar and completed a one-year residency at La Citè Internationale des Arts de Paris. Okefolahan’s paintings draw inspiration from his immediate surroundings, African culture and the religion of Vodun. His works are also an expression of the everyday abuses of power and injustices in Benin. Okefolahan paints his environment and attempts to explore the world beyond what people see. His canvases are spontaneous and saturated with colour and often include some text. Rafiy Okefolahan has exhibited in France, Spain and Belgium.
Dominique Zinkpè was born in 1969 in Cotonou, and is one of the most recognisable contemporary artists to emerge from Benin. His work is influenced by the country’s rich history and his immediate African surroundings. Zinkpè’s paintings have a surrealist quality – loose figures battle and swim on the canvas. Nurturing fertile women often appear in Zinkpè’s work recalling themes of desire and motherhood. He uses a mixture of oil, acrylics and found objects on his canvas and leaves large areas of empty space. Zinkpè’s paintings can be jarring and unsettling, informed by animism, religion and his own internal struggles. Zinkpè’s sculptures are no less arresting. Many of them consist of assemblages of carved wooded Ibeji dolls that engage the Yoruba concept of twinship. Dominique Zinkpè was awarded the Prix Jeune Talent Africa in 1993 and won the Prix Umeoa at the 2002 Dakar Biennale.
Marius Dansou was born in 1984 in Cotonou, Benin where he still works and lives today. Dansou started his sculptural career in wood before progressing on to metal. His work of feminine heads with either traditional or extravagant hairstyles draws upon the local hair fashions of women in Benin. This breakthrough work has earned him multiple exhibitions in France, Benin and Nigeria. Dansou’s recent exhibitions include a collective show at this year’s Dakar Biennale, as well as a group exhibition in Paris titled ‘Mickey Au Benin’. Dansou views his work as a meeting point between his ancestors and the world today, and not as a simple homage to the past.
Remy Sossouvi better known as Remy Samuz was born in 1982 in Cotonou, where he lives and works today. Ever since his childhood, Samuz has worked with wire. Samuz delicately weaves and moulds wire to create magnificent sculptural forms on various scales. His technique is reminiscent of that used by birds to build their nests. Samuz says he spent hours intensely observing the methods used by birds to build intricate, labyrinthian nests with wisps of straw. His practice is about movement, fluidity and buoyancy – even his larger scale sculptures have an air of lightness to them. Samuz has exhibited at the French Institute in Cotonou, and more recently at the 2014 Dakar Biennale.
Gallery of African Art: Over the past decade, the visibility of African art has been steadily increasing through exhibitions, publications, auctions, and cultural exchange. The Gallery of African Art Ltd (GAFRA) is dedicated to showcasing the best of 20th Century and Contemporary visual art from the African region and its Diaspora. The gallery aims to present established and emerging African artists to new audiences within the global art market.