Middle East & Africa

Dominique Zinkpè
Cosmos animiste

Dominique Zinkpè’s works with a wide range of materials, from jute to used cars to “hôhô” figures, which come from the Cult of Twins in southern Benin as a voodoo religion symbole of fertility. His portfolio is continually morphing between mediums and subjects, tackling issues such as intimacy, sex, the sacred and the profane while linking ancestral culture with the contradictions found in today’s world. These sketches of tumultuous human drama are infused with elements of irony and satire to reveal Zinkpè’s most disturbing and arresting constructs of the imagination. In Cosmos Animiste, Dominique Zinkpé presents a world of ghosts. They show the transformation that people, animals and vegetation undergo, through contact with their environment – an animistic idea. Borrowing from dreams and the world of the spirits, the quasi-human characters in this painting hover above a modern city, and seem agitated in a battle involving desire and metamorphosis. The strange, hybrid beings — both man and animal — engage in scenes of dance, evoking the transcendental power play deeply rooted in Benin culture vis-à-vis games of masquerade, sex and gender. Energetic in its lively colors but at the same time through fragile drawing, reminiscent of graffiti (a big inspiration for Dominique Zinkpé), this painting reminds one of hastily scribbled notes. This little scenery could disappear at once, as it was an epiphany. Drawing from the aesthetic currents and beliefs of the past, this painting underscores unresolved tensions that have arisen from the fusion of Catholicism, animism, and indigenous traditions, with contemporary culture.

Dominique Zinkpé was born in 1969 in Cotonou, Benin.

Dominique Zinkpè is arguably one of the most recognizable contemporary artists to emerge from Benin. He is a versatile self-taught artist, producing drawings, paintings, sculptures and installations. His vivid paintings and drawings are both intimate and revealing, often denouncing injustice and hypocrisy. Beginning at an early age, Zinkpè’s artistic skill was rewarded early on when he won the Young African Talent Prize at the 1993 Grapholies Art Festival in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Ten years later, during the Dak’art Biennial of Contemporary Art held in the Senegalese capital, he received the prestigious UEMOA Prize for his installation Malgré Tout !. Active and politically aware, Zinkpè developed “Boulev’art: Artists in the Street” in 1999, a project that seeks to bring the work of local contemporary artists to wider attention. Since its creation, six subsequent manifestations of this public rally have taken place in Benin and France. Moreover, in an effort to share his artistic knowledge with others, Zinkpè founded the Ayïzo – Œuvre de l’Esprit association in 1999, which has since opened the "Unik-lieu de création contemporaine", an artistic space to train and promote contemporary artists. It is also with this goal in mind that Zinkpè assumed his duties as event organizer of the 2010 Benin Biennial.