Slave trade, the figure of the Amazon, spirituality and the Voodoo religion: the Benin Pavilion is all about African feminism

Benin is preparing for itsfirst participation in the Venice Biennale with an intriguing project entitled "Everything Precious Is Fragile".

The exhibition, unveiled in recent days, will be a tour through the history of this French-speaking West African country.

Crucial issues will be addressed such as the slave trade, the figure of the Amazon, spirituality and religion < strong>Voodoo, which saw the light in these parts.

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What binds these themes together is African and Beninese feminism. In fact, an important portion of the Venetian exhibition will be dedicated to Gèlèdé spirituality, told through masks that depict the spiritual power of mothers in local society. While the icon of the Amazon will bring back memories of the political and military power enjoyed by women at the time of the kingdom of Danxomè.

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To set up the ambitious exhibition project, the curator Azu Nwagbogu has selected four prominent artists: Chloé Quenum, whose work poetically addresses political, social and ecological themes ; Moufouli Bello, a lawyer converted to art, known for her female portraits on bright blue backgrounds in extra-large format; Ishola Akpo, which creates works of art similar to metaphors by mixing tradition with modernity; and RomualdHazoumè, famous throughout the world for his masks, made from used plastic petrol cans.

Through their works, visitors will discover the dramatic history of the slave trade and the essential role played by women in the fight against slavery. While the study of the Voodoo religion will highlight their role both as priestesses and as simple believers.

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Last note. The Benin pavilion is managed by the Agence de développement des arts et de la culture (ADAC) on behalf of the Beninese Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts.

The decision to take part in the 60th International Art Exhibition was not at all obvious. The choice, in some way, was closely linked to the recent restitution (which took place in 2021) of 26 treasures stolen from the royal family at the time of the French colonization of the kingdom of Danxomè.

Precisely in the wake of this symbolic moment, the exhibition Art du Bénin d'hier et d'aujourd'hui, de la restitution à la révélation was set up in Cotonou which, after touring various countries around the world , in fact gave the green light to participation in the lagoon event.