Ivo­rian artist draws on roots in ‘Mogo Dy­nasty’ show

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE - AFP

“Some peo­ple said I’d wasted my life, that I should be a doc­tor, do some­thing else,” re­calls Aboudia, an Ivo­rian pain­ter with in­ter­na­tional fame and a big show this month in Abid­jan. Aboudia grew up as Ab­doulaye Diar­ra­souba, a youth who still read­ily speaks Nouchi, the street di­alect of work­ing-class dis­tricts in Ivory Coast’s eco­nomic cap­i­tal. Though to­day he of­ten aban­dons his easel in the city for cramped air­craft seat­back ta­bles and art gal­leries in Paris, Lon­don and New York, Aboudia re­mains close to his roots and his cur­rent ex­hi­bi­tion hosted by the Fakhoury Foun­da­tion is called “Mogo Dy­nasty”. “I’m still of Nouchi cul­ture. ‘Mogo’ in Nouchi means lad, the peo­ple,” he told AFP in the midst of his work, some­times in black and white and some­times in lurid color, por­tray­ing hu­man heads, skulls or ro­bots with teeth ev­ery­where. The show runs un­til Novem­ber 20.

‘The Africa of to­day’

“My paint­ings are the Africa of to­day,” Aboudia as­serts in front of a piece called “The Death of the King”. “In this one, they’re try­ing to give the king medicine... This too is Africa, where there’s tra­di­tion, peo­ple who strug­gle to live. I wanted to tell that, the Mo­gos.” While proud of his African iden­tity, Aboudia re­fuses to be cat­e­go­rized. “I con­sider my­self to be an artist, an artist who comes from Africa. Peo­ple la­bel things like ‘African artists’ and ‘Euro­pean artists’. But if you were to see my work in China or Ja­pan, you wouldn’t know that it’s African.” The pain­ter ac­knowl­edges, nev­er­the­less, that it is most likely harder for an African to break through to suc­cess in a world where art is of­ten re­garded as a fu­tile ac­tiv­ity and a dif­fi­cult way to earn money.

“It’s tough ev­ery­where, but there is the cul­ture (of art). The ma­jor­ity of Africans lack this cul­ture. Some un­der­stand, but this isn’t like places where art is read­ily wel­comed. Here you need to fight to make peo­ple un­der­stand. That’s not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing, it de­pends on the kind of cul­ture you learned at an early age,” he says. Though Aboudia was “very young (when he be­came aware) of a tal­ent for draw­ing”-still in pri­mary school with his chalks-he moved on to foot­ball and school the­atri­cals. “At least I knew what that was... It was in grow­ing up and reach­ing high school that I re­al­ized that there was a school for de­sign, for art.

“Cu­rios­ity led me to the school (a re­gional con­ser­va­tory) and ev­ery time I saw th­ese chil­dren there draw­ing or paint­ing, I stopped go­ing to my high school... At home, I dressed as if I was go­ing to school, but I spent the whole day with them, just watch­ing. That’s how one day I asked whether I could join the class. They looked at what I’d done and they said ‘Why not try? You could be an artist later.’”

‘I un­dress peo­ple’

Aboudia stud­ied at the re­gional con­ser­va­tory of arts and crafts in Aben­gourou and the tech­ni­cal cen­ter for ap­plied arts in Bingerville, then moved on to the Higher Na­tional In­sti­tute for Arts and Cul­tural Ac­tion (INSAC) in down­town Abid­jan. His work won him renown at a very young age at the height of a po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary con­flict in 2010-2011 that claimed sev­eral thou­sand lives. The chaos was re­flected in paint­ings of that time. The Ivo­rian has of­ten been likened to Haitian-Amer­i­can artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) both for stylis­tic traits and their pre­co­cious emer­gence. The Brook­lyn-born artist moved on from street art graf­fiti to paint­ings shown across the United States and in Europe in his early 20s.

“That doesn’t bother me,” Aboudia said of the com­par­i­son. “Peo­ple say it to me a lot. At the time, I didn’t know him. I like his work very much-a great artist. But as for me, I am Aboudia.” To­day, Aboudia has broad­ened his range to mon­tages, notably in­clud­ing a wall tapestry made of the bits and pieces of ev­ery­day life. “Clothes, shoes, dolls, teddy bears... It’s the whole en­sem­ble that comes from hu­mankind and chil­dren that I took to make a com­po­si­tion. “I un­dress peo­ple, I take their clothes and I make another can­vas. This fol­lows on from the paint­ings, but in another form. I count on do­ing more and even big ones. My def­i­ni­tion of art is the search for new sen­sa­tions.”—

Ivo­rian pain­ter Adoudia stands near an art­work dis­played dur­ing his ex­hib­tion ‘Mogo Dy­nasty’.

Ivo­rian pain­ter Adoudia poses in front of his paint­ing dis­played dur­ing his ex­hi­bi­tion “Mogo Dy­nasty” at the foun­da­tion Fakhoury’s gallery in Abid­jan.

— AFP photos

Ivo­rian pain­ter Adoudia poses in front of his paint­ing dis­played dur­ing his ex­hib­tion ‘Mogo Dy­nasty’.

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