Welcome to the LAB, the Fondation Zinsou's new space, whose first capsule exhibition "Dan Xomę" echoes the news of restitution by presenting the works of Cyprien Tokoudagba, a major Beninese artist who has dedicated his life to transmitting the history of the Dan Xome Kingdom. This exhibition explores the symbols of the Agassouvi royalty, who ruled over Abomey for more than three centuries. It seemed important to us, at the time of the return of thrones, recades, assens and other works of the royal treasure, to present Cyprien's paintings that make history accessible to young and old and that enhance an often forgotten memory. This capsule exhibition is therefore contemporary in its form and patrimonial in its narrative.
The 'Danxomenu' history has been written in many ways (bas-reliefs of the Royal Palaces, 'Kpanligans', Appliqués as well as the many European sources published over the last three hundred years). We have chosen to follow the artist in his works and his stories. The texts that accompany the works are therefore inspired by the many interviews that the foundation's team conducted during Cyprien Tokoudagba's life.
He paints. The artist passes the brush over and over again on the canvas, without ever dipping it into the pot of black paint, balanced on the well. Gradually the character comes to life, the shadows appear. These famous shadows, that Cyprien has searched for so long.
How to give life to his characters? He found the solution, alone, with the photographer from Abomey. His characters, to him, seemed alive. So why? The light, of course. Cyprien studied the photographs for hours to understand the shadows that gave life to the frozen people. The technique today, he alone masters it in his workshop where his children and his wives accompany him, to whom he has taught the rudiments of his art.
Gifted with a talent that was revealed very young, his teachers supported the young 'vodounsi', follower of a Tohossou. Pushed to develop his art in the Abomey of the 60s, he invented color, first inspired by natural pigments, before feeling restricted and looking elsewhere for polychrome freedom. He found it at the hardware store, between a jar of Astral and another of Lefranc Email Glycero. The strong and vivid colors of his paintings will remain one of his signatures.
His worship of the God of water authorized him to decorate convents, before his fame was such that he was commissioned to restore the ancestral bas-reliefs of the royal palaces of Abomey.
Tokoudagba saw "Art as a responsibility given by God who granted him this talent", a talent without borders: drawing, painting, sculpture... He explored all the domains. He finds his true vocation in the transmission. He puts his work at the service of the next generation, so that it does not forget its roots, its ancestors, its history. His works are the fruit of incessant research, in the palaces and convents of Abomey; each representation of gods or kings comes to enrich the heritage which he preserves and wishes to bequeath to the youth of his country.