SINZOGAN, Julien (1957-)

Gouache and Indian ink on paper
63 x 99 cm
Date of entry at UNESCO
Country of origin Benin
Donation made to UNESCO by the President of Benin during his visit to UNESCO Headquarters
© Photo: UNESCO/N. Burke
Julien Sinzogan, 1995. All rights reserved

In this work, Sinzogan depicts six African women wearing traditional dress – possible Amazon women, as expressed by the title - placed against a grid-like background.

The grid-like pattern covers the entire surface of the work, and alternates between black and white Indian ink drawings and colourful gouache ones, hence illustrating two significant techniques of Sinzogan’s work. The extremely lively palette of color used for the female figures contrasts with the neutral tones used for the background designs.

These designs create a patchwork effect; they blend scenes and representations of everyday life, including animals, plants, musical instruments, portraits and other objects. One can for example observe a women braiding a child’s hair, another crushing the millet, a pair of sandals, earrings, an umbrella, a cat, an elephant, a flute, drums … It is interesting to note that none of these representations are repeated except for the headrest, an emblematic object in African arts which is here depicted several times.

The use of gouache makes the six female figures stand out and breaks up the rectilinear effect of the otherwise grid-like composition. This creates an impression of fusion between the patterns and the Amazon women, as if their own story were being told through the various square designs. Sinzogan has a particular affection for themes linked to spirituality and the history of his country, which are probably represented in this work.

Artist biography

Born in Porto-Novo (Republic of Benin) in 1957, Julian Sinzogan first studied architecture in Paris before dedicating himself to drawing, painting and sculpture. Today, Sinzogan lives and works in France. For his figurative works, he he is inspired by the history of Benin and voodoo spirituality, of which the cultural influence is particularly strong in this region. Through different techniques and material, Sinzogan illustrates themes such as the slave trade or the Cuban society of Yorubas. He uses materials such as papyrus, hessian or tree bark to create contrasts. He particularly appreciates the qualities of Indian ink for his drawings to which he then adds colors in order to guide the spectator towards a sign, a specific symbol, giving his work a spiritual dimension.

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