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Romuald Hazoumè

 Venue: Irish Museum of Modern Art, Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin 8 Website: http://www.imma.ie/en/index.htm Price: FREE Date: Feb 9th-May 15th Time: Time: Tuesday- Saturday 10am-5.30pm/Wednesday 10.30am-5.30pm/Sunday and BH 12noon-5.30pm  

An exhibition of the work of Romuald Hazoumè, one of Africa’s most acclaimed and original artists, opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday 9 February 2011.

Winner of the prestigious Arnold-Bode Prize at documenta 12 in 2007, Hazoumè was born and continues to live in the Republic of Benin and his work is deeply rooted in the culture and traditions of West Africa. His practice also constitutes a powerful commentary on modern-day life in the area and on the West’s outdated perceptions of Africa.

The exhibition is the first solo show dedicated to an African artist at IMMA and continues a strand of programming presenting artists from the periphery, whose socially engaged work documents a moment in time in a particular cultural milieu.

Romuald Hazoumè focuses primarily on the artist’s iconic sculptures made from discarded plastic canisters. Ubiquitous in Benin for transporting black-market petrol (known as kpayo) from Nigeria, these jerry cans are expanded over flames to increase their fuel-carry capacity, sometimes to excess resulting in fatal explosions. Hazoumè fashions the cans and other found objects into a series of masks or portraits of everyday African people, from Citoyenne (1997), a broad-faced woman with African-style plaits, to Java Junkie (2003), a relaxed character with long flowing locks. The masks also call to mind Western perceptions of primitivism, as seen in the use of similar motifs in the works of Picasso and Braque in the early 20th century.

Another work formed from jerry cans, MIP – Made in Porto Novo (2009), comprises a quartet of jazz instruments with their own unique accompaniment. This is made up of revving motorbikes, splashing liquid and other noises recorded by the artist over a day spent with his fellow countrymen, the so-called kpayo army, who transport the illegal fuel. These and other works all highlight the presence of multi-national oil companies in West Africa where natural resources are exploited with little benefit to the local communities, a form of neo-colonialism that Hazoumè equates with an unending form of slavery.

The exhibition is organised by IMMA and will travel to the Oriel Mostyn Gallery, Llandudno, Wales.

The exhibition is made possible with the support of Fondation Espace Afrique and the French Embassy.

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