“Conventional-breaking African creativity is the art of today and tomorrow”

(Agence Ecofin) – A distinguished guest at Benin’s first international arts festival, which celebrates 50 years of his career, we meet artist Ludovic Fadaïro at his residence in Cotonou. Carvers, painters, installers and especially art lovers, the people of Benin talk to us about the local market and its prospects.

Agence Ecofin: Many people find it difficult to understand what a visual artist is. We even talked about plastic art. How do you define it?

Ludovic Fadairo: Plastic art is any artistic form that presents a physical form. We can talk about paintings, sculptures, installations. These are thoughts, sentences that we form. It places imagined aesthetics into material forms.

AE: You are one of the first Benina artists to have particular fame abroad. Do you think there is an artistic identity of the Benin people; is the nationality of art felt in the work?

“Art has no identity. In Benin, we have a significant density of plastic creations and we have voodoo, an egregore where we draw for all art consciously or unconsciously. But, generally speaking, art does not have a proper identity and to give it away is to kill it.”

LF: Art has no identity. It is timeless and unidentifiable, but the artist must have come from somewhere. His identity is not to be confused with his art. In Benin, we have a high density of plastic creations and we have voodoo, an egregore where we draw for any art, painting, music or dance. Consciously or unconsciously, Benina’s artists always end up falling into this cultural hole. Can we give an identity to Benin’s art in this regard, it is possible. But, generally speaking, art doesn’t have a proper identity and to give it away is to kill it. Chinese art does not need to be translated into another language to be understood because art is a universal language.

AE: So is it wrong to think that art can represent a country outside its territory?

LF: Currently, some of Benina’s works are exhibited in Morocco. What represents Benin is its cultural identity. It is our mastery of art that we export, otherwise the art has no particular nationality or identity.

AE: You mentioned universality. What did Benina’s artists bring to universality?

LF: Where there are people, there is art. Each country brings what it has to the planet universality concert. The exhibition of works of art recently returned by France is a testament to our universality. This heritage exhibition attracts the attention of not only Beninians but also foreigners. Art is when a work forces one to ask questions. “What is it, what does the artist mean? » From question to question, we entered into communion with the artist and today the world enters into communion with Benin through his art.

AE: What do you think of Benin’s artistic landscape?

LF: He’s full of talent. You just need to set it up. Young people have a creative spirit that needs to be supported and managed. There is a very interesting art renaissance in this country.

“Benin is rich in talent both in the kitchen and in speaking. Here, even insults are artistic. Talent just needs to be managed.”

We are a very artistic country, both in cooking and in speaking. Here, even insults are artistic. It is necessary, as more and more States are doing, to organize the arts and artists to produce marketable products so that creativity accompanies economic development.

AE: That’s right, you mentioned a lot of talent. What about the internal art market? Benin’s work is sold abroad but is it sold in Benin?

LF: The local market is starting to form. We can’t say yet which direction the market will take, but knowing the efforts being made by the Benin authorities in this area, I have high hopes that Benin will become a center of attraction for plastic arts in Africa, and indeed in the world. Initiatives such as the Benin International Arts Festival support this arrangement. But I also want to add that there are art collectors in Benin. We are a bit closed in Benin, but the arrangement of the sector will allow getting to know them and giving them genuine art products. We must not forget that there is a difference between art and craftsmanship. (Art refers to an unstructured, open-ended form of work; one that expresses emotions, feelings, and visions. Craft involves the creation of objects but for purposes more practical than aesthetic; Editors’ note). There will be a Benin market. It started falling into place.

AE: Do you think the lack of events dedicated to the visual arts accounted for the time it took to have a local market?

LF: Indeed. When you think that for several years Benin was called the “Latin African quarter”, art must have a more important place. Art isn’t just for artists, it educates and nourishes the spirit.

“For several years Benin was called the “Latin Quarter of Africa”, art should have taken a more important place. »

Benin is the Latin Quarter which basically feeds the brain. We haven’t held any events or even Fine Arts schools and ultimately this country has no institutions dedicated to studying culture. I helped set up a craft high school in Calavi and there is an arts faculty at the university, but that is not enough.

AE: So what did you expect from the first Benin International Arts Festival (FinAB)?

LF: Already, I was expecting FinAB rather than a single edition. Ulrich Adjovi’s personal initiative deserves a thumbs up because it accompanies the state’s action in the field of culture. I’m excited to take part in it and help bring some of the biggest names in African visual arts to the event. Above all, I wish for a well-organized FinAB that will not stop at just one issue.

AE: While preparing for this interview, I saw that you are one of the pioneers of Africa who broke away from conventional techniques. Would you describe yourself as a breakthrough artist?

LF: I’ve always rebelled against what is already there. You have to look different. Our ancestors had no industrial canvases or paints but left us century-old masterpieces that stand the test of time. Among the pieces returned to Benin, there are 400-year-old fabrics that remain lavishly decorated.

“Wherever there are people, there is art. »

You don’t go to art school just to study and apply. The training course teaches us primarily to think for ourselves in order to create. Artists must always aim for originality to create what is not yet there. This is why I always put myself in the shoes of an art researcher by working, for example, on dead wood or any element that speaks to me. I reject convention and am always ready to question myself too.

AE: This trend towards division has been widely followed in Benin and Africa. Would you say that today Benin’s art is expressed in violation of convention?

LF: After all, African culture is dense and marked by a certain alliance with nature. We take from it what we need to live and to express ourselves. Therefore, it is only natural that African art is unconventional. In Africa, we have all the colors to paint in nature, for example. So, there really is an Africanization of art which is marked by the breaking of convention. I’m not saying this to affix a new derogatory African label or folklore because this unconventional art that we practice in Africa is the art of today and of tomorrow. We have to collaborate with artists from other countries, but still be ourselves, without hiding things.

Interview by Servan Ahougnon

Also read:

Benin Arts Festival, restoration of works, rehabilitation of Ouidah: towards Benin’s cultural renaissance?

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