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HAZOUME Romuald_Agassa_01.jpg


When I create a mask, I don't know in advance how I'm going to style it or what objects I'm going to use. In my office, I have kept certain cans for six years. They never “passed over the billiards” as they say. I look at them every day because this piece, I am there every day. The cans have to speak to me on a daily basis. And depending on what I have as a source of inspiration, I will look for the best can, the one who has the power to transcribe for me exactly the true face of the person I want to embody. This reality, for me, is crucial. And once that's done, I have to decide if the piece is capable of embodying that person, or if it isn't. Whether we can show it or not. If there is everything, without the room being talkative. Yes. Because what is gossip? It's the fact of accumulating lots of things to say, "oh yes, she's in good health, she has jewelry like that", of putting jewelry in her ears, "she has a piercing", etc. However, all that is talkative and useless. The most important thing is the suggestion of a face with the most important element, namely its hairstyle, to which I cannot give a name. I prefer to give the piece the first name of the woman I am portraying, just a little modified, or a first name close to hers. And that's enough for me to tell the story of this woman, to talk about her true face. And that's what's delicious.

When collecting materials (feathers, pipes, brushes, shoe heels, threads, pipes), I don't know if they will be used to shape a hair. I cannot know in advance. I have a pile of rubbish in my studio. By the way, I have an anecdote about it. I accepted

to host a friend of my sister who had problems with her parents for a few days, until things calmed down at home. I lived alone at the time. In my living room, everything was clean. But in front of the door to the workshop, a room that was always closed, there was a pile of rubbish. My sister's girlfriend, thinking she was doing the right thing, picked it all up. She put everything in the trash, cleaned everything, before I arrived.... Good. Me, when I'm very angry, I don't speak, I stutter, I can't speak. So I got out of my house, I walked... Anyone could see me walking, that something was wrong. I went to see my sister; I spoke calmly. I told my sister to tell her girlfriend to put everything back in its place and not touch anything anymore. Or go home. These objects are my everyday life… We have a dialogue, I speak with these objects all the time, I see them pass in front of me, I turn them around in my head without touching them. I can see an object in my head and - without touching it - put it back somewhere where it belongs. He must be right in his place. The object must not be badly endowed. He must not only exude correctness, but also an honesty. It has to be honest. The object must not be out of place, the object must not usurp the place of another object. It's complicated to explain. When you have a mask and you put on an object that does not suggest the reality of the person's true face, then this object is false, it is not in its place. When he is in his place, he is fair and that remains honest. “Honest” because when you paint the portrait of a generous woman, who has an abundant hairstyle and instead of taking electric wires which suggest this vivacity, you take simple locks, you do not say the thing. But when you take electric wires that go out in a bunch - electricity is energy - it shows the strength of this woman, the energy of this woman and the object is really in its place, it's that is to say, it could not be replaced. It is difficult to explain. For example when you do a play after seeing women from Curaçao dancing... There is a woman who interests you, whom you follow with your eyes for a long time... Or you are in São Paulo, where I went to see women training for a carnival in a Samba school... It's extraordinary, you're the same woman, her image stays with you, because it's her portrait that you want to do... So you're going to look for the feathers that correspond to this woman you want to tell about, whose true face you want to tell, without knowing her. You have to suggest it with feathers, in a “fair” or “honest” piece. These are not the right words but maybe the right word will come one day.


I collect objects all over the world. While I was in Dakar for a week with my family, I took two days to go to the filth of Dakar which is very famous. It is two kilometers in length. Acres of rubbish. I even think it is the most extraordinary dump I have seen in Africa. I would have regretted not going there. I brought back a lot of pieces that are in quarantine, for the moment, before I bring them home.


I sometimes buy equipment. But not new. I buy used equipment whose owners do not want to get rid of. Like some cans, which I bought at ten thousand times their value because the owner didn't want to part with them. The owner was afraid; how can a guy you don't know arrive and offer you ten thousand CFA francs for a can that's worth four hundred? He was saying "no I don't want to sell" so I said "well, twenty thousand". He replied “no I don’t want to sell”, I said “good thirty-thousand…”, “forty-thousand”! We got to a hundred thousand. And when we got to 100,000, people - who knew me because I had photographed them - stopped and said, "Ah, bro, do you have a problem?" I said "yes I have a problem, this guy does not want to sell me his can." And everyone started yelling at him. “We know him! Sell him, he's an artist… How much does he give you? Hundred thousand and you don't want to sell?” I finally offered one hundred and fifty thousand, because I was keen on the can. So they said to me, “wait, brother, we will get you cans like that”. I said "no, no, no it's not looking for me cans like that, it's those two". And the guy didn't know where to go. He ended up saying “well ok, buy”. I counted the one hundred and fifty thousand CFA francs in front of everyone, I gave it to him. What a shock for him! He didn't believe it and the others reassured him by saying, "we know him, he's been with us for four years, by giving you this, he gave you a real gift for the two cans . The two cans in question were two cans of the same capacity, of the same quality, of the same color, enlarged in the same way, which, connected by a rope, made it possible to balance the motorcycle during transport. I didn't remove the rope, I just made holes behind it to hang the two cans. There was nothing else to add. History is enough. 


So. It is not an artist who wants!

Romuald Hazoume

Interview Elise Debacker, Imelda Hounsa

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