Romuald Hazoumé

(b. 1962)

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(1962– )

Beninese multimedia artist, born in Porto Novo. Before deciding on a career in art, he had considered both medicine and sport. He has transformed used and discarded plastic canisters into masks in the Dogon tradition of the kind that had inspired Picasso. Inka Gressel says of them: ‘They say a great deal but they aren't talkative; they speak their own language’ (documenta 12, 2007). The best-known example is his gigantic installation La Bouche du Roi (1997–2000, British Museum, London), which was exhibited around Britain in 2007 to mark the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade. The title derives from the name of the port from which the transportations took place. The canisters are arranged in the pattern of a famous engraving of a slave ship; by showing the appalling conditions in which slaves were transported, the print helped fuel the anti-slavery movement. Broken canisters stand for those who died during the voyage and as part of the installation there are gin bottles and cowrie shells as examples of the goods traded for slaves. Quite apart from the quasi-human appearance of the canisters, they have powerful contemporary associations. Such canisters are often heated to increase their capacity when transported, so creating extra dangers for those involved in the illegal traffic of fuel between Nigeria and Benin. Hazoumé points out how, even when slavery has been abolished, economic expedience takes precedence over human welfare.

http://www.aestheticamagazine.com/gfx/18romuald.pdf Article by Niamh Coghlan on Romuald Hazoumé, Aesthetica magazine website.

Subjects: Art.

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