« Une divine peinture relevée sur le corps d’une mandarine jaunie » is a small painting measuring 11 x 15 cm painted by Frederic Bruly Bouabré on 1 December 1994.
Might the force of an artist live in the fact that he finds himself out of range of every culture and thus beyond the danger that would threaten the specific culture to which he would belong? Can he thus move from one culture to another, or rather above them, without getting stuck in one? Artist and writer Frédéric Bruly Bouabré invents the foundation of his written culture and transcribes fragments of Bété writing into it and records the alphabet in the form of drawn and written representations. At the moment when his production is used to recount his visions and to “educate” his children, Bruly possesses no Western notions of art; his practice is completely unique. In 1948 while working in Dakar as a civil servant, Bruly Bouabré had a vision that pushed him to fix the knowledge, tradition, and beliefs of his people, the Bété, in a written and visual form. He began with an alphabet for the Bété language in which he writes numerous bilingual French-Bété books. After many years of helping anthropologists in the Ivory Coast to collect information about his own tribe and others, Bruly Bouabré decided in the 1980s to become an artist – his dream of becoming a writer was increasingly an impossible reality – in order to continue his mission of revealing, collecting, and archiving his knowledge and vision of the world. Bruly thus found a register that remains close to those for whom he works, to the elements of his people, and is not very far from the written language that he dreams of mastering. The artist’s work is inscribed in a single and same format. In simple paintings on thick paper, containing an image surrounded by a margin of written text and which is legible when presenting the paintings in all four senses (top, bottom, left, and right), Bruly Bouabré undertakes multiple subjects: politics, linguistics, geography and ancestral traditions, scarring, measurements, divinations, numerology, philosophy, and sociology. He then opens his story to the earth, fruits, trees, and humans. But in his method, he never adopted European artistic models as they are taught in West Africa, nor did he follow the traditional styles and modes of his country. The intellectual production of Frédéric Bruly Bouabré could be the reference for developing a critical language independent of the post-colonial conventions that de-orient the perception of art that is truly transnational.
Frederic Bruly Bouabré, « Une divine peinture relevée sur le corps d’une mandarine jaunie », 1-12-1994, 11 x 15 cm. Private collection, Fez.
Bruly Bouabré lives and works in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast.
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