by Hannah Baader

Art Histories
Jan 27, 2016 · 29 min read
Fig. 1: Romuald Hazoumè, La Bouche du Roi, 1998–2005, British Museum, London (photo by Benedict Johnson © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016)

La Bouche du Roi / The Mouth of the King

La Bouche du Roi — the king’s mouth — is the title of one of the most acclaimed artworks of the first decade of the 21st century (1) (Fig. 1). The piece by the Benin-based artist Romuald Hazoumè was bought by the British Museum in 2007. The acquisition was made on the occasion of the bicentenary of the abolition of slavery in Britain, which is dated through these events back to the year 1807 (2). This periodization is based on the so-called ‘Bill of the abolition of the slave trade’ that was approved on 25 March 1807 by the British Parliament. In reality, the bill became effective only decades later. Moreover, it only affected the trade in humans, and not the legal institution of slavery as such. Nevertheless, the bill of 1807 can be considered as one of the first steps in the abolition process, approved at a time when the Atlantic Slave Trade was in full bloom, but increasingly under pressure (3). As is well-known, the Atlantic Slave Trade brought ca. 12 million Africans to the Americas, mainly to Brazil, Cuba and the States of Georgia, Louisiana, Virginia, etc. The trade was operated by the British, Portuguese, French, Spanish and Dutch. At least 2 million people were transported via harbours located in today’s Republic of Benin; most of them passed through the city of Ouidah, from where they were forced to the Middle Passage, the crossing of the Atlantic.

Fig. 2: Engraving of The Brookes, 1789 (photo from http://www.history.ac.uk/1807commemorated/exhibitions/museums/brookes.html)

La Bouche du Roi was created and continuously developed by Romuald Hazoumè between 1998–2005 (4). It is made of the upper part of 304 black plastic canisters, arranged on the ground of the museum space, together with a few other objects. Among them are empty bottles, a rifle, cowrie shells, a scale, and spices. The disposition reveals the contour or shape of a ship as seen from above. More precisely, the canisters reproduce a famous engraving visualizing the interior of a slave ship (Fig. 2). The print, first published in 1787 in Plymouth, documents the conditions on the Brookes, an English vessel sailing from Liverpool via the African West Coast to Jamaica with 454 slaves aboard (5). The arrangements on board the Brookes — as reconstructed in the print — would leave about 180 x 40 cm cargo space for each male, and even less space for women, with the bodies of the enslaved stretched on the floor of the inner deck, leaving little space for them to move their bodies. The print was published by members of the abolitionist movement, in an edition of 1.700 as a single sheet copper engraving an 7.000 in a wood-engraved impression. The publication of the image was extremely effective, causing a strong public reaction against the trade in human beings. As Wood has shown, this image “supports an abolitionist cultural agenda which dictated that slaves were to be visualised in a manner which emphasised their total passivity and prioritised their status as helpless victims.” (6) The author has argued that Western societies’ memory of the Middle Passage is today still dominated by 18th-century English abolitionist models of passivity and helplessness. However, the print is one of the few contemporary images of the conditions under which Africans were transported to the Americas in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. As Wood shows, it should be noted as an obstacle, which prevents an understanding of how cultural transference from African cvivilizations to those of New World slave, and ex-slave, communities may have operated: The notion that the Middle Passage was so traumatic that it functioned to create in the African a tabula rasa of consciousness is as odd as it is a fiction, as others have convicingly argued (see again note 6).

In Hazoumè’s piece, the dark plastic canisters serve as placeholders for the enslaved black bodies, tied to a floating ground (Fig. 3). His re-use of everyday objects is part of a larger concern with reused materials. In the context of Benin’s artistic scene this strategy or aesthetic practice is called ‘l’art de la récupération’ — recuperation art (7). It builds — as it might seem — on the transformation of things, the vexation-like use of forms, as developed with the re-use of prefabricated commodities and materials, and the promotion of ‘dead’ objects or remains into ‘living’ animated artworks or things. At least, this is the Western perspective on this aesthetic and artistic phenomenon or practice. The specific transformative artistic strategy or capacity of Hazoumè was already visible in the artist’s earlier works, where he similarly transformed canisters into masks or faces, by reading the round openings of the canisters as mouths, the handles as noses, their symmetry as the symmetry of the human face, etc., thereby animating them (Fig. 4). The playful use of forms together with his mockery of our ceaseless attempts at reading them makes him a very powerful artist, connecting him furthermore to larger movements within the artistic and aesthetic scene of West Africa.

Fig. 3, 4: Romuald Hazoumè, La Bouche du Roi, Details (photos by Benedict Johnson © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016)

The black canisters are devices used for the storage and transportation of liquids, like water, but mainly of gasoline, a chemically processed product made of fossil remains. Everywhere in Benin, this liquid material, gasoline, is traded illegally: it is smuggled over the Nigerian border into the Republic. Canisters and large glass bottles are seen by the roadside throughout the country, offering the fossil energy for black market sale. Fossil oil is one of the riches of West Africa, mainly Nigeria, but the benefits of these goods hardly reach its people. Instead, its extraction, conveyance and consumption has led to different forms of organized crime, the pollution of air and soil, and a number of diseases, caused for example by the withdrawal of gasoline by sucking with the unprotected human mouth. Hazoumè’s use of the canisters seems to reflect on human and fossil fuel driven workforces, on old and new forms of exploitation and slavery, historical and 21st century.

Two canisters at the very end of the ship are highlighted, and dressed as ‘kings’ by the artist (Fig. 5). One of them has a white plastic face, and is wearing a yellow crown. The other one is again made of dark plastic, with his head adorned with a pointed hat with yellow dots. The two king-canisters are significantly larger than the others. Their round openings can be read as widely opened mouths. The two kings are placed on the sternpost, separated from the other canisters by a gun and surrounded by empty bottles of alcohol, together with plates showing offerings of cowrie shells and spices. Between the two kings — or canisters — the artist has placed a scale, as an indication of the weighing of goods, bodies, and ‘values,’ both material and immaterial. The scale seems to balance the two kings and their respective impacts, weights, and mutual dependency.

Fig. 5: Romuald Hazoumè, La Bouche du Roi, Detail (photo by Benedict Johnson © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016)

The title of the work, La Bouche du Roi, in fact, evokes kingship. Primarily, though, the title refers to a geographical area: the mouth of the Mono river bay, a river situated near a large land tongue that dominates the coastline of Benin, the Grand Popo. It therefore alludes to the maritime aspects of Benin’s history, past and present, and therefore indirectly to the slave trade and the Middle Passage (the traumatic overseas transportation of the enslaved), together with royal connotations. Furthermore, beyond geographical indications, the title might also evoke the name of an office that once organized the kitchen of the French kings in the royal household of Versailles in the 17th century. There, the kitchen with its workforce was described as the mouth of the king — ‘La Bouche du Roi.’ The institution dates back to the time of the declaration of the Code Noire (ca. 1685), the notorious French laws on slavery: a legal regulation of continuous violence pronounced by the very same king who created Versailles.

Seen from a 21st century perspective, the title Hazoumè has chosen seems to critically allude to the continuous need to feed ‘kings,’ whereby their wide-open canister-mouths signify the enduring hungriness of the powerful. The piece seems to address the greed of the West, but also that of dominant social groups, as driving forces of exploitation and slavery. Slavery, therefore, is what is feeding the kings, those in the West, the slave traders and plantation owners, as well as the kings in Versailles, but also the kings of Dahomey, or those of Ouidah, who participated in and profited from the trade in African people, or those of today (8).

In its final form, Hazoumè’s installation was complemented by a film. Even without the pictures in motion, the comparatively weightless yet monumental work is a powerful visual comment on and embodiment of the history and the mechanisms of slavery. But his work is also a reflection on the powers of transformation and creativity; he is perceiving the world both critically and poetically. His work invites us to participate in both the critical and the poetic impulses.

La Bouche du Roi went on tour to several British, European and Beninese art institutions, after its acquisition by the British Museum in 2007. In the same year, a larger work by the artist was on show at the documenta 12, where it won the prestigious Arnold Bode prize. With his work Dream, the artist took up the motive of the ship once more, while referring to recent migration movements. The piece was bought by the city of Kassel for its permanent collection in the same year, confirming the international significance of Hazoumè once again.


Beninese Artists in the 21st Century: African Art and the Global Context

Romuald Hazoumè: Beninese Solidarity with Endangered Westerners, Kunsthaus Graz, 2013.

Hazoumè lives and works in Porto-Novo, where he was born in 1962 into a Yoruba family. He is one of several internationally acclaimed artists from today’s Republic of Benin, working on a global scale, with considerable economic and public success, and with plenty of exhibitions in renowned art institutions and galleries. The scholarly literature on the artist is very substantial, and constantly growing, with several catalogues and book publications dedicated to his work (9). In an interview Hazoumè gave on Beninese Solidarity with endangered Westerners, a work developed for the Kunsthaus Graz in 2013, he stressed his relationship with the African continent. In a rhetorically pointed, sometimes ironic, dialogue with his interviewer, he provocatively played with the notion of African spirituality, thereby stressing the importance of Vodun for his art (10).

We might ask, therefore, whether Hazoumè’s work and artistic production can be viewed as an ‘unquestioned part’ of the contemporary art scene, the global art market, and of international acquisition policy today (11). Is his work ‘normalized’ within a global setting? ‘Normalization’ was the critical, though, not unproblematic term that Catherine David used when questioning the position of non-Western art within the global art world, in a different, though, comparable context — the works of artists from North Africa and the Middle East (12).

Or is Africanness still regarded as the Other of Western European art and thought, as the historical tradition has placed it (13)? On the other hand: is Otherness something Hazoumè wanted to allude to, with his ambivalent mockery of the Western/African, rational/spiritual opposition, he expressed in his interviews?

At the same time, the question should be asked the other way round, both from an African and Beninese perspective: are Hazoumè and his work part of a ‘global’ move within African, or more precisely: Beninese art production? A global move of African art was already identified by some critics in the 1980s (14). Thus, what would this mean for his work and for the local, Beninese, African, as well as for the international, now significantly globalized, art world?


The Museum of Contemporary African Art: Meschac Gaba

Meschac Gaba is among the artists of Hazoumè’s generation. He is another major figure in the international art scene originating from the Republic of Benin, where he grew up and started his career. Gaba, who was born in Cotonou and today mainly lives in Amsterdam, had a solo exhibition at the Tate Modern in 2013, which was also shown in Berlin in 2014. The central piece of this exhibition was a work he had finished in 2002: the Museum of Contemporary African Art (15) (see link below). The title refers to a project that the artist started in 1997. The Museum of Contemporary African Art is a critical reflection on the situation of African art, its infrastructures, and its position within the Western art world.

It unfolds as a series of twelve different spaces, among them a library, a museum restaurant, a salon, a draft room, a music room, an art and religion room, an architecture room, a games room, a summer collection room, a marriage room, etc. Materially, it is composed of photographs, sculptures, drawings, textiles, architectural models, furniture, wooden structures, etc. In the final stage, on show at documenta 11, curated by Okwui Enwezor, Gaba had added a last component: The Humanist Space — a container serving as the deposit for a series of 100 bicycles, offered to the public for touring the city and the areas of the documenta. Gaba describes himself as a “plasticien.” With regard to the complex museum, he stated: “The art I wanted to create could not be integrated.” Or: “My museum doesn’t exist. It is just a question.” And: “What I do is to react to an African situation, which is linked to a Eurocentric problem.” (16)

Meschac Gaba, MAVA Procession, 2010.

In 2010, Gaba started to work on the Musée de l’Art de la Vie Active (MAVA) in Cotonou: initially an ephemeral artistic intervention in the social and urban setting, later on becoming a more permanent, yet not institutionalized, space for the visual arts. Starting from the airport of Cotonou, Gaba guided a procession of more than a dozen participants, dressed in white cloth with huge masks on their heads with meaningful, partly traditional, partly modern motives, who ceremonially walked in procession through the urban spaces of the metropolis (17) (see video link above).

Three years later, in 2013, under the same name MAVA — The Museum of Art and the Active Life — he opened an art library, and established a foundation and an artistic space. This space provides a platform for the young, extremely dynamic art scene in Cotonou. MAVA supports male and female artists, gives access to art books, organizes workshops and lectures, and offers short term fellowships. It is situated in a popular neighbourhood and has become a living part of Cotonou’s current art scene. As such, it works as a complementary and alternative structure to other established institutions. Among them are state-sponsored ones, including academic institutions like the École du Patrimoine Africaine in Porto-Novo, founded in 1998 and of enormous importance, or festivals like the Festival du Vodun at Ouidah, established in 1992 soon after the end of the country’s socialist period (see Verena Rodatus’ and Atreyee Gupta’s contribution Cyprien Tokoudagba and Dominique Kouas: Querying the Place of the ‘Vernacular’ in Contemporary Béninois Visual Arts), or the more recent private initiatives of the eminent collector Marie-Cécile Zinsou, with her strong engagement in African arts and aesthetic education. Zinsou established an art foundation in Cotonou in 2005.

Fig. 6: Le Musée de la Fondation Zinsou, Ouidah (photo by Luise Illigen)

In 2013, she opened a museum (Musée de la Fondation Zinsou) in Ouidah to create a space of contemporaneity, as she calls it (Fig. 6). The museum is situated in the Villa Ajavon, an Afro-Brazilian-style bourgeois mansion constructed in 1922 for an industrialist engaged in the palm oil business. The elegantly and carefully reconstructed villa hosts a permanent collection of works by artists mainly from Benin, among them works by Hazoumè. Zinsou’s museum is conceived an emblematic space for African art, creating a new visibility of the continent’s role as a genuine actor in the art world. Zinsou wants the museum to be a participatory space grounded in the everyday (18).


African Art, Whose Scholarship?

Evidently, today, the mechanisms and the geography of contemporary art are global (19). This has been confirmed with emphasis on African art by Okwui Enwezor — himself an important actor and communicator within the field of contemporary global art and exhibition practices (20). Nevertheless, as was elaborated upon earlier, artistic positions like Meschac Gaba’s do point towards more complex relations between the infrastructure or mechanisms of art, its geography and the aesthetic practices at work. Pieces such as the Museum of Contemporary African Art forcefully demonstrate the many ambivalences of the African position within the field, in this case addressed in a paradoxical and ironical way. Therefore, Catherine David’s critical questioning of a presumed process of ‘normalization’ of the art scenes of non-Western countries within the global field still seems to be of relevance, if not an unresolved problem. The critical approaches towards globalization processes, as formulated by David and Enwezor himself, comprise investigations into the very problematic notion of ‘normalization,’ as well as critical discussions of the attempts to integrate a presumed non-Western/African Other(ness) into the Western canon while adopting Western standards — which itself is a form of epistemic violence, as others have argued (21). Moreover, a more general clarification is needed for the concepts and notions of globalization itself, as Fredrick Cooper has pointed out, again from an Africanist’s perspective, observing that notions of ‘globalization’ and ‘the global’ strangely oscillate between a critique of homogenisation processes, a description of capital flow and its promises etc., and the awareness of global entanglements and shared histories, be it of capital, persons or cultures (22).

Therefore, the question of the status and position of African art within a global framework is even today not an easy one. This is even more true if we take into consideration that African art and art in Africa might not necessarily be identical. At the same time, contemporary philosophers like Achille Mbembe have given art and artistic creation a prominent place in their attempt to formulate a philosophy of black reason (“raison nègre”), a philosophy of a mankind still to come, where art is considered a forceful possibility of liberation, resistance, and resurrection, with the body as a privileged field of unveiling power and violence (23). A non-homogeneous position of African art and art in Africa concerns such aspects as the artist’s education, the situation of museums, the practices of display, of institutions, and the social and religious meaning of aesthetic and artistic practices.

This same ambivalence applies to the situation of scholarship on African art, both within the field of art history and beyond. Unquestionably, African art played an important, if not crucial role for 20th century art. And yet, its position in volumes like Art Since 1900. Modernism, Anti-Modernism, Postmodernism, edited in 2004 by prominent scholars like Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yves Alain-Bois and Benjamin Buchloh, is shockingly marginalized (24). The difficult placement of African art and art historical scholarship is even more evident if we look beyond contemporary art, into the art histories of modern, early modern, medieval and ancient Africa. This obviously includes the problem of periodizations: these periodizations were developed in accordance with European history, whereas the concept of historical change itself is or at least was often denied for African societies as well as for their artistic creations. Instead, the whole continent, from south of the Sahara onwards, with its enormous historical diversity is taken as an undifferentiated unit. Moreover, and most importantly, African art has mainly been studied in the departments of anthropology or ethnology — and not art history — at least in Europe and in some respects the US. Moreover, African art in many cases is collected and exhibited in so-called ‘Ethnological Museums’ (for example in Berlin) which are founded in a colonial past (25). This simple fact significantly determines the approaches and questions of recent scholarship on African art, strongly focusing on rituals, religions and the social embeddedness of artistic production. This leads both to important results and even impulses for the field, but clearly also to shortcomings.

Fig. 7: Fetishes at the Lomé fetish market (photo by Luise Illigen)

Nevertheless, the enormous impact of African art not only on the artistic production of Western art since the beginning of the 20th century, but also on the discipline of art history can’t be denied (26). This impact becomes especially visible through the elaboration of the concept of fetishism on the one hand, and thoughts on aesthetics on the other, already formulated in the 18th century (27). Therefore, African art and African aesthetic practices were vital for conceptualizations of Western art, Western aesthetic education, and also Westernness in general. Today, the notions of the fetish, as developed in a colonial response to African aesthetic and religious practices, and of the agency of art have gained new interest (28). Categories such as agency or the life of the artwork or artifact have, in fact, been suggested for an understanding of the traditional architecture of the Batammaliba Area between northern Benin and northern Togo (29). Whereas Vodun art has been addressed as counter aesthetics, in particular by Suzanne Blier (30), others have stressed the secrecy of Vodun practices (31). Secrecy actually adds another layer of complication to scholarly approaches to certain forms of the arts of Africa.

Taking all this into account, what is the place of African art within the discipline of art history?

Among the pressing issues to be addressed, therefore, is that of scholarship itself, its methods, languages, chronologies and terminologies (32). What should scholarship on African art be within the discipline today, in the different regions of the continent as well as in a transregional perspective? Where could it stand in a future field of aesthetic studies? Will the study of African art change the discipline itself, and help to develop new approaches between art history and anthropology? And: what should the future of aesthetic practices and their study be in societies to come? The concept of Aesthetic Practices is an attempt to overcome these binaries between art history and anthropology, bringing the social sciences, art history and aesthetic theory in a more productive dialogue.

Fig. 8: The group in front of a Batammaliba house, Koutammakou, Tamberma Valley, Togo (photo by Luise Illigen)

With these questions in mind, in May 2015 a group of international art historians travelled from Berlin to Benin and Togo as a specific region of high historical and contemporary transregional connectivity, to critically question the globalizing approaches towards the arts of the area. They engaged with artists, collectors, scholars, artworks, and aesthetic practices on-site, to visit royal palaces, institutions, study architectural structures, houses, the exteriors (but not interiors) of Vodun temples, mosques, colonial botanical gardens, sacred forests, fetish markets, public and private photographic archives, textiles such as the Appliqué (see William Kynan-Wilson’s contribution Stories and Storytellers and the Interview with Beninese Artist Yves Kpede), the supposedly living architectures of the Batammaliba or Tata houses (Fig. 8), dance and Fá rituals and UNESCO politics, and to encounter street life and painting practices in a society that is multi-linguistic, multi-religious, partially non-literate, historically complex and multi-layered.

The travelling seminar of the research and fellowship program Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices at the Forum Transregionale Studien was realized in cooperation with Romuald Tchibozo (University Abomey-Calavi) and Suzanne Preston Blier (Harvard University), whose vital scholarship inspired the project (33). The participating scholars came from various countries such as Benin, Egypt, Germany, India, Iran, Israel, Mexico, the UK, and the US. The whole project included a seminar workshop at the University of Abomey-Calavi, meetings and discussions at MAVA and Artisttik Africa, the Fondation and Musée Zinsou, the Goethe Institut Lomé, and several gallery spaces throughout Benin and Togo. It comprised atelier visits and discussions with Benin-based artists Dominique Kouas, Yves Kpede, Magou, and Éliane Aïsso as well as discussions with the Togo-based painters and sculptors Dominique Zinkpé and Tété Azankpo in Lomé, Togo (34) (Figs. 9–11).

Fig. 9: Magou: Mask, in possession of the artist, Cotonou | Fig. 10: Dominique Kouas in his atelier in Porto-Novo | Fig. 11: Romuald Tchibozo in discussion with Togo-based painters and sculptors at Contemporary Art gallery Alain Fassier, Lomé (photos by Luise Illigen)

Preparatory seminars in Berlin with Andreas Eckert and Till Förster, as well as the participation in a conference by Joseph Adandé preceded the trip (35). Moreover, a Paris workshop on the history of the arts from Benin with visits of the museums Quai Branly, the Louvre, and the Musée Dapper complemented the project. This included intense conversations with the museum curators, as well as talks and meetings organized in collaboration with the INHA and the Deutsches Forum für Kunstgeschichte, Paris (36). In Paris, the participants studied and discussed the important collections of arts and artifacts from Benin that have been on display in the French capital since the late 19th century (1894). The presence of these artworks in French museums results from the colonial history of the two countries.

Fig. 12: Akati Ekplékendo: Gou, ca. 1860, Louvre, Paris (photo by Luise Illigen)

The important pieces are presented today both in the Louvre at the Pavillon du Secession — like the amazing figure of Gou, the god of iron and war, made in or around 1860 (Fig. 12)— and at the Musée du Quai Branly, where important wooden sculptures, and several textiles are kept together with a highly elaborate wooden throne that entered the museum as a later donation by the Zinsou family. As is well known, the Quai Branly and the Pavillon du Secession present very divergent museum displays to today’s visitor. They stand for the different traditions of the anthropological museum on the one side and the art museum on the other, and seem again to reinforce the divide between art and anthropology. Again, art and anthropology merge and collide in the field of African art.

In this blog, the observations and thoughts of the participants in the travelling seminar and the Paris workshop are presented in essays (37). The texts are accompanied by a series of photographs, intended to situate the arts and aesthetic practices of Benin in the social reality of the country they are part of. The photos, a substantial part of the Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices project, were taken by the authors, and by the photographer and project collaborator Luise Illigen.

The overarching aim of the travelling seminar and related activities was to start a process of communication between scholars from different parts of the globe, operating with the concept of aesthetic practices as developed by the program Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices, and trying to provide new impulses, in the above-mentioned concerns, as well as for the field at large (38).


Footnotes

(1) See Daniela Roth, Romuald Hazoumè. Mister Kanister und die orale Postmoderne (München: Fink, 2013); Germaine Viatte, La Bouche du Roi, Exh. Catalogue, Musée du Quai Branly, 12/09/2006–13/11/2006 (Paris: Flammarion, 2006).

(2) The bicentenary of the Abolition and the Bill of 1807 was commemorated in the UK with several events and exhibitions, among them Inhuman Traffic. The Business of the Slave Trade, British Museum/Portraits, People and Abolition: A Journey through the National Portraits Gallery’s Collection, National Portrait Gallery/Uncomfortable Truths, Victoria and Albert Museum. For a review see Lynn M. Hudson, “Exhibition Review,” The Journal of American History 94 (2007) : 886–891.

(3) The historical reasons for the abolition of slavery are highly disputed. See the overview given by William Mulligan, “The Global Reach of Abolitionism in the Nineteenth Century,” in A Global History of Anti-slavery Politics in the nineteenth Century, Eds. William Mulligan/Maurice Bric (Houndsmills, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 1–16; David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation (New York: Knopf, 2014); Judith Jennings, The Business of Abolishing the Slave Trade, 1783–1807 (London, Portland: Frank Cass, 1997); for the Western slave cost, see Silke Strickrodt, Afro-European Trade in the Atlantic World. The Western Slave Coast c 1550–1885, Western Africa Series (Woodbridge, Rochester: James Currey, 2015); for a short overview see also Jeremy Black, The Atlantic Slave Trade in World History (New York, London: Routledge, 2015), 114–120.

(4) A first stage of the installation was exhibited in Cotonou in 2000 at the Centre Culturel Français. See Viatte.

(5) For the Brookes see Marcus Wood, Blind Memory: Visual Representations of Slavery in England and America, 1780–1865 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000), 16–40, esp. 16–19; also see Viktoria Schmidt-Linsenhoff, Ästhetik der Differenz. Postkoloniale Perspektiven vom 16. bis 21. Jahrhundert (Marburg: Jonas, 2010).

(6) See Wood, 19.

(7) See the contribution “La récupération dans l’art contemporain béninois de 1990 à 2012” by David Gnonhouevi in this blog.

(8) See Randy J. Sparks, Where the Negros are Masters. An African Port in the Era of the Slave Trade (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014); Olivier Grenouilleau, Qu’est-ce que l’esclavage? Une histoire globale (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 2014); also see Andreas Eckert’s review of Grenouilleau, Andreas Eckert, “Rezension: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 29.07.2014, S. 10,” http://www.gbv.de/dms/faz-rez/FD1201407294326287.pdf.

(9) See Roth; Viatte; Romuald Hazoumè, Romuald Hazoumè, Exh. Catalogue, Fondation Zinsou Cotonou, 06/06/2005–17/09/2005 (Gent: Snoeck-Ducaju & Zoon, 2005).

(10) See Günther Holler-Schuster/Peter Pakesch (Eds.), Romuald Hazoumé. Beninese Solidarity with Endangered Westerners, Exh. Catalogue, Kunsthaus Graz, 09/21/2013–01/12/2014 (Köln: Walther König, 2013).

(11) See Peter Osborne, Anywhere or not at all. Philosophy of Contemporary Art (London, Brooklyn: Verso, 2013); Juliane Rebentisch, Theorien der Gegenwartskunst. Zur Einführung (Hamburg: Junius, 2013).

(12) See Catherine David, “Learning from Beirut. Contemporary Aesthetic Practices in Lebanon,” in Homeworks. A Forum on Cultural Practices in the Region. Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Palestine and Syria. Compiled by Christine Tohme and Manu Abu Rayyan (Beirut: Ashkal Alwan, 2003), 32–39, 33.

(13) See Olu Oguibe, The Culture Game (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004); Verena Rodatus, Postkoloniale Positionen? Die Biennale DAK’ART im Kontext des Internationalen Kunstbetriebs (Frankfurt a. M.: Peter Lang, 2015).

(14) See Okwui Enwezor, “Networks of Practice: Globalization, Geopolitics, Geopoetics,” in Contemporary African Art since 1980, Eds. Okwui Enwezor/Chika Okeke-Agulu (Bologna: Damiani, 2009), 6.

(15) See Kerryn Greenberg (Ed.), Meschac Gaba, Museum of Contemporary African Art, Exh. Catalogue, Deutsche Bank KunstHalle Berlin, 09/20/2014–11/16/2014 (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2014/London: Tate Publishing, 2013); also see Meschac Gaba (Ed.), Museum of Contemporary African Art, Vol. 1: Library of the Museum (Amsterdam, New York: Artimo, 2001).

(16) Greenberg 2014/2013.

(17) See Hans Belting/Andrea Buddensieg/Peter Weibel (Eds.), The Global Contemporary and the Rise of New Art Worlds (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2013), 348. For a video of the procession, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAiixUaNH04.

(18) See the interview with Marie-Cécile Zinsou in this blog and Fondation Zinsou, “Ouidah, Le Musée,” http://fondationzinsou.org/ouidah-le-musee/.

(19) See, among others, the contributions in Belting/Buddensieg/Weibel; Jill Casid/Aruna D’Souza (Eds.), Art History in the Wake of the Global Turn (Williamstown: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2014); Hamid Keshmirshekan, Contemporary Art from the Middle East. Regional Interactions with Global Art Discourses (London: Tauris, 2015).

(20) See Enwezor, 23–29.

(21) See Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?,” in The Post-Colonial Studies Reader, Eds. Bill Ashcroft/Gareth Griffiths/Helen Tiffin (London, New York: Routledge, 2006), 31; Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (New York: Random House, 1965), 251, 262, 269.

(22) See Frederic Cooper, “What is the Concept of Globalization Good for? An African Historian’s Perspective,“ African Affairs 100 (2001) : 189–213.

(23) See Achille Mbembe, Critique de la Raison Nègre (Paris: Éditions la Découverte, 2013), 249–250.

(24) See Hal Foster/Rosalind Krauss /Yves Alain Bois/Benjamin Buchloh (Eds.), Art since 1900. Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism (London: Thames and Hudson, 2004).

(25) See Belinda Kazeem/Charlotte Martinez-Thurek/Nora Sternfeld (Eds.): Das Unbehagen im Museum. Postkoloniale Museologien (Wien: Thuria + Kant, 2009); Romuald Tchibozo, “Catalyzing Artistic Space, Legitimization, or Ideological Cohesion: The Case of the Former German Democratic Republic and African Countries,“ in Aesthetic Practices and Spatial Configurations. Historical and Transregional Perspectives, Eds. Hannah Baader/Martina Becker/Niharika Dinkar (Bielefeld: transcript, 2016, forthcoming); Enwezor, 12.

(26) See Gabriele Genge/Angela Stercken (Eds.), Art History and Fetishism Abroad. Global Shiftings in Media and Methods (Bielefeld: transcript, 2014); Christine Blättler/Falko Schmieder (Eds.), In Gegenwart des Fetischs. Dingkonjunktur und Fetischbegriff in der Diskussion (Wien: Turia + Kant, 2014); Simon Gikandi, Slavery and the Culture of Taste (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011); Mariët Westerman (Ed.), Anthropologies of Art (New Haven, London: Yale University Press, 2005).

(27) See the classical articles by William Pietz in RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics 9 (1985), 13 (1987) and 16 (1988).

(28) See Genge/Stercken; Alfred Gell, Art and Agency. An Anthropological Theory (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998); Bruno Latour, Sur le Culte Moderne des Dieux Faitiches (Paris: La Decouverte, 2009)

(29) See Suzanne Preston Blier, The Anatomy of Architecture. Ontology and Metaphor in Batammaliba Architectural Expression (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

(30) See Suzanne Preston Blier, African Vodun. Art, Psychology, and Power (Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press, 1995).

(31) Joseph Adandé, “Bocio. From Nothingness to Liminality and Minimality,” in Genge/Stercken, 177–188.

(32) See, among others, Irene Bellow/Beatrice von Bismarck (Eds.): Globaliserung/ Hierarchisierung. Kulturelle Dominanzen in Kunst und Kunstgeschichte (Marburg: Jonas, 2005).

(33) See Suzanne Preston Blier, Art and Risk in Ancient Yoruba: Ife History, Power, and Identity c. 1300 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015); Suzanne Preston Blier, The Royal Arts of Africa: The Majesty of Form (London: Lawrence King, 2012); Suzanne Preston Blier, “The African Urban Past: Historical Perspectives on the Metropolis,” in African Metropolitan Architecture, Ed. David Adjaya (London: Thames and Hudson, 2012), 14–19; Suzanne Preston Blier/James Morris, Butabu: Adobe Architecture in West Africa (Princeton: Princeton Architecture Press, 2003); Suzanne Preston Blier et al (Eds.), A History of Art in Africa (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2000); Suzanne Preston Blier, African Vodun: Art, Psychology, and Power (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995); Suzanne Preston Blier, “Benin: The Place where Vodun was Born,” Natural History October (1995) : 40–47; Blier 1987; Suzanne Preston Blier, “Houses are Human: Architectural Self Images of Africa’s Tamberma,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 42 (1983) : 371–382; Tchibozo 2016 forthcoming; Romuald Tchibozo, “L’art contemporain d’Afrique dans l’ex-République Démocratique Allemande: entre influence idéologique et légitimation,” Studies in Visual Arts and Communication: An International Journal 1 (2014) : 1–28; Romuald Tchibozo, “Le Gèlèdè, un argument de développement artistique sous-régional : cas de la République du Bénin (Afrique de l’Ouest),” IMO- IRIKISI 1 (2011) : 43–52; Romuald Tchibozo, “Dynamiques de l’évolution de l’art plastique pendant le règne du roi Toffa 1er ,” Annales de la Faculté des Lettres, Arts et Sciences Humaines (UAC) 16 (2010) : 28–41; Romuald Tchibozo, “L’Art Plastique au Bénin au Detour du XXIè Siècle,” in Afrika und die Kunst. Einblicke in deutsche Privatsammlungen, Eds. Dorina Hecht/Günther Kawik (Bottrop: Kawik. 2010), 126–131; Romuald Tchibozo, “A Point About the Seminar,” in Is Art History Global?, Ed. James Elkins (New York: Rouledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2007), 232–235; Romuald Tchibozo (Ed.), Harmattan 2005: Art Contemporain au Bénin (Cotonou: Centre Culturel Français de Cotonou, 2005).

(34) We would like to thank Verena Rodatus (FU Berlin) for her incredibly valuable support in Lomé.

(35) We are grateful to Tobias Wendl (FU Berlin) for the invitation to participate in the seminar conference with Joseph Adandé.

(36) We would like to thank Gaëlle Beaujean-Baltzer (Musée du Quai Branly) and Aurelien Gaborit (Musée du Quai Branly/Louvre, Pavillon des Sessions), as well as Thomas Kirchner (DFK, Max Weber Stiftung), Godehard Janzing (DFK, Max Weber Stiftung), and Thierry Dufrêne (INHA) for their generous support.

(37) We would like to express our thankfulness to the former program coordinator Luise Illigen, who was responsible both for various organizational apsects of the journey, for layouting and setting up this blog publication, and for editing large parts of the first contributions.

(38) The concept of Aesthetic Practices is also used by Catherine David, “Introduction/Vorwort,” in Documenta X: Short Guide/Kurzführer, Ed. Paul Sztulman (Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz, 1997), 6–13, 11.


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Cite this page:
Baader, Hannah. “Introduction: Why Benin?” From Traditional to Contemporary Aesthetic Practices in West Africa, Benin and Togo. The Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices Blog. Ed. Baader, Hannah. August 2016 <https://medium.com/from-traditional-to-contemporary-aesthetic/introduction-18c7beb319e0#.urxi1nfst>.

From Traditional to Contemporary Aesthetic Practices in West Africa, Benin and Togo

The Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices Blog 2016 | Editorial Board: Hannah Baader, Gerhard Wolf | Coordination: Philip Geisler | ©2016 by Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices, Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin | www.art-histories.de | ISSN 2512–417X

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Berlin-based research program “Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices. Kunstgeschichte und ästhetische Praktiken” | www.art-histories.de

From Traditional to Contemporary Aesthetic Practices in West Africa, Benin and Togo

The Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices Blog 2016 | Editorial Board: Hannah Baader, Gerhard Wolf | Coordination: Philip Geisler | ©2016 by Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices, Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin | www.art-histories.de | ISSN 2512–417X

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