Romuald Hazoumè

BEN (1962). Lives and works in Porto Novo, Benin.

Water Cargo, 2012
Installation. Mixed technique.

Romauld Hazoumè is an African painter and sculptor whose work exhibits a confrontation with his social context by means of waste and recycled materials and even trash. With these materials, Hazoumè addresses clichés about Africa and stereotypes of African art, but he does this in order to challenge the audience with a critical evaluation of the social problems that afflict his country and the African continent—problems that quickly emerge as global.

One example of this is the piece the artist is presenting at the biennial. Water Cargo is a motorcycle with jerry cans made out to look like wings. The jerry cans are used to carry water in Benin. Hazoumè intends to point out that after the age of petroleum—that tar that we use indiscriminately, polluter of the seas—the next problem will be water, guaranteeing its purity and availability. He also makes reference to a Beninois paradox: “Without petroleum, water cannot be properly distributed.” The symmetry of the installation suggests robustness, but this is only an appearance, since the slightest alteration would destabilize the scooter. This is not only metaphorical; Hazoumè is also trying to achieve something “highly aesthetic.” The installation takes on a majestic presence and along with the masks represents the possibility of turning old discarded material that has been rejected by society into something beautiful that transmits local culture.