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During a fifteen-month residency at the Fondation Zinsou, Beninese artist Ishola Akpo chose to work on the theme of African queens, who have reigned but who have mostly been voluntarily forgotten in the history of several countries.


Tassi Hangbé in Benin, Yalla Ndaté in Senegal, Njinga in Angola, Yaa Asantewaa in Ghana and the Yoruba queens of Nigeria, but also in Europe, Marie-Antoinette of Austria in France and Isabella the Catholic in Spain, are queens who have inspired Ishola Akpo.


The artist, during his research, quickly realized that there were very few documents and archives related to these queens of Africa. Thus was born the project "AGBARA Women", for which Ishola Akpo, primarily a photographer, also experimented with new media such as weaving, embroidery, sculpture, collage and paper sewing.


"AGBARA Women" expresses the determination, strength and resistance shown by these African queens, but also the fragility of their power in the face of all forms of opposition they encountered. "AGBARA Women" is an ode to African women and traditions.  "AGBARA Women" is an ambitious, precise and unpublished work that we are honored to present at the Fondation Zinsou's Ouidah Museum.

Trace of a queen .jpg

"I document myself, I go to meet history. It is this research work that is exciting. It's not the fact of taking the camera and starting to photograph, no. I feed myself first. And when I feed myself, I go into a trance. I don't read much but when I open a book, I go into a trance. When I am told the stories, when I read, I have images that come into my head. That's when I want to immortalize those images and that's when I take my camera. It is the time of trance that animates me at this moment. The documentary research is a very important step in my work. It is like an initiate who goes to the convent, after the initiation stage, this " training" that he received in the convent, he puts it on the public square and this divinity takes shape in him, and he is no longer in himself. It's the same thing when I'm doing my research... Afterwards, I get into photography and it's the trance that drives me at that point."

isola akpo

 "My tapestries are manifestos, for me it is a new way of doing photography and creating new images. By approaching the canvas to decode the words that are embroidered by hand, we are confronted with a territory punctuated with evocative words.

 I try to make visible what is invisible."

isola akpo

"The thread is both the fragile but binding element, and the needle the metallic and resistant element. This sewn red thread, which binds the paper, represents the thread of forgotten or erased history."

isola akpo

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