Friday, 23 January 2009

Romuald Hazoumé | La Bouche du Roi

Detail from La Bouche du Roi, an installation piece by artist Romuald Hazoumé in the shape of a slave ship. It's just been acquired by the British Museum and is on display in Room 35. Photography: Benedict Johnson. Courtesy of the British Museum.

This work by Romuald has had a huge influence in the way in which, contemporary African art is viewed. It is clever, simple and hugely moving. Within the tightly packed boat, Romuald, originally from Benin, a country at the heart of the slave trade, reminds the audience that these slaves were individuals. They took with them the knowledge of Voodoo from Africa; suggesting the spirit is a powerful force and although these West Africans were dehumanized by their captures their individuality shone through via his/her spirit. The small coloured fetishes placed carefully on the cans highlights this. Romuald has a generous way of looking at what must have been such a frightening living hell for those taken from homelands.

This work resonates and is certainly now one of the best known works of art from the Continent. For the past 2 decades, Chris Spring from the British Museum an Elisabeth from the October Gallery have played such pivotal roles in presenting powerful and moving artworks to the Nation and beyond we should be most grateful for their efforts. Looking at this work it speaks volumes but what is clear is what art should be all about. This work bold, honest and has an extremely powerful effect on all of us.

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