The city of Ouidah in Benin, 42 kilometers from Cotonou, is known as one of the world’s Voodoo capitals, and was a major market for the sale and shipping of slaves to the Americas in the 18th century. Last November, Ouidah saw the opening of the first African Contemporary Art Museum. Founded by the Zinsou Foundation, working since 2005 to champion preserve the African artistic heritage, this museum is entirely private.
Located in one of the city’s beautiful, historic Afro-Brazilian buildings, La Villa Ajavon (1922) was fully restored for the occasion.
The musem opens with the exhibition Chefs-d’œuvre de la collection (Masterpieces of the Collection), featuring the work of thirteen artists from nine different African countries. This first exhibition, which combines photography, painting and sculpture, allows visitors to discover the work of international and local artists like Romuald Hazoumé, Cyprien Tokoudagba, Frédéric Bruly-Bouabré, George Lilanga, Samuel Fosso, Seni Awa Camara, Jean-Dominique Burton, Bruce Clarke, Chéri Samba, Mickäel Béthé Sélassié, Aston, Kifouli Dossou and Solly Cissé.
Photography lovers will appreciate the black-and-white studio photography of Seydou Keita and Malick Sidibé, like the latter’s famous “Les 3 apprentis fumeurs” (1974), along with more contemporary works, like Samuel Fosso’s celebrated self-portraits from the series Tati (1997), where the photographer dresses as a pirate and a liberated American woman.
The Belgian photographer Jean-Dominique Burton will exhibit a dozen selections from his series Chasseurs Nagô du Royaume de Bante (2011), a long-term project shot in Benin over the course of several years.
Open six days a week, with free admission for all, the museum aims to introduce the Benin public to contemporary art. Already a popular destination for school field trips, in just a few months the museum has already received over 12,000 visitors.
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