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Welcome to the LAB, the new space of the Zinsou Foundation, whose first capsule exhibition "Dan Xomę" echoes the news of restitution by presenting the works of Cyprien Tokoudagba, a major artist from Benin, who has devoted his life to transmission of the history of the Kingdom of Dan Xome. This exhibition explores the symbols of Agassouvi royalty, who reigned 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 from the royal treasury, to present the paintings of Tokoudagba which make history accessible to young and old and which value a memory often forgotten. This capsule exhibition is therefore intended to be contemporary in its form and heritage in its narrative. 


The danxomenu story has been written in many ways (bas-reliefs of the Royal Palaces, Kpanligans, Appliqués as well as the very 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 team conducted during the life of Cyprien Tokoudagba. 

He paints. The artist passes the brush over and over the canvas successively, without ever dipping it into the pot of black paint, balanced on the well. Gradually the character comes to life, shadows appear. Those famous shadows, which Cyprien searched for so long. 


How do you bring your characters to life? The solution, he found it, alone, at the photographer studio of Abomey. His characters, to him, seemed alive. Why was that ? Light of course. Cyprien studied the pictures for hours to understand these shadows that brought life to frozen people. The technique today, he alone masters it in his workshop where his children and his wives accompany him, to whom he taught the rudiments of his art. 


Gifted with a talent that turned out to be very young, his teachers supported the young vodounsi, follower of a Tohossou. Pushed to develop his art in Abomey in the 1960s, he invented color, first inspired by natural pigments, before feeling restricted and looking elsewhere for polychrome freedom. He will find it at hardware stores, 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 cult of the God of water allowed 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. 


Tokudagba lives "Art as a responsibility given by God who granted him this talent", a talent without borders: drawing, painting, sculpture... He explores all areas. He finds his true vocation in 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 enriches the heritage he preserves and wishes to bequeath to the youth of his country.

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