Frédéric Bruly Bouabré:
Connaissance du Monde
curated by Antonella Pisilli
in collaboration with Kyo Noir Gallery for
Black History Month Florence
Via Sant'Antonino 11, Florence
February 8-March 1, 2018
Opening: Thursday, February 8 at 6 pm
Connaissance du Monde, an exhibition of works by Frédéric Bruly Bouabré of the Ivory Coast, curated by Antonella Pisilli, opens on Thursday, February 8th at the SACI Gallery as part of the third edition of Black History Month Florence.
Speaking before the UNESCO Assembly in 1962, the writer Amadou Hampâté Bâ said: “In Africa, every time an elderly person dies it is as if a library burns down.” When Frédéric Bruly Bouabré died on January 28, 2014, a wealth of knowledge was forever lost, but over the course of his long life, the artist left us with thousands of “feuilles volages,” postcard-sized drawings that serve as the evidence of his important work and as a trace of the universal knowledge of the world.
Born in Zepregue, Daloa in 1921 (though his official documents state 1923), Bouabré worked incessantly throughout his life to impart the knowledge of the universe, first to the people of his region and then to the world, concerning himself with all fields of thought. He was a writer, artist, storyteller, philosopher, thinker, mystic, inventor, researcher, pacifist, teacher, poet, communicator, prophet, scholar, visionary, observer, documentarist, and archivist of the world around him.
The work of Frédéric Bruly Bouabré began with a vision: the “Vision du soleil.” On Thursday, March 11, 1948 the sky parted and before his eyes the sun divided into seven colored spheres forming a beautiful circle around the mother sun. In that instant Bouabré became Cheik Nadro, “He who does not forget."
From the moment of his first revelation, he began to make small drawings of everything that he saw hidden in the surface of things, from the forms on fruit peels, to the images in newspapers, to everything that he thought was necessary to create an archive of the world, a task that he tirelessly pursued for sixty years, whose results he collected as an encyclopedia titled “Connaissance du monde.”
Beyond drawing, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré also dedicated himself to writing, inventing a new alphabet of syllables that could be used to transcribe spoken language into written text.
Frédéric Bruly Bouabré recounted hearing that in Bekora, a village near Dalao, there were little black bowls that were famous for their beauty. He went to Bekora to find them and noted that they seemed sculpted, as if they were elements of an ancient language. While he was there he heard a voice in a dream that told him to give names to the symbols that he recognized. Following this second revelation, he steadfastly worked to find a correspondence between sound and symbol, drawing out a total of 500 syllables. He called this system of writing the Bété alphabet.
This work reflects the universal thought of Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, in which all men are brothers and should understand one another through the use of the same alphabet. Until his death, the “new Champollion," with a ball point pen and colored pencils, continued the task of transcribing everything from poetry and traditional Bété stories, to cosmic mythology, to the latest events of international politics.
In 1958, when the anthropologist and naturalist Théodore Monod, director of the French Institute in Africa published his syllabary, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré began to gain renown outside of his village. Discovered by André Magnin in 1989, his work was presented for the first time in Europe at the exhibition “Magiciens de la terre,” which was followed by numerous international exhibitions and greater recognition, making him one of the most significant African artists in the international art world.
The film “Nadro” (1998), directed by Ivana Massetti, will be shown during the exhibition. The fascinating visual style takes the viewer through the fundamental stages of Bouabré’s life. Speaking about the film, Ivana Massetti explains, “The film captures all that will not exist in the next millennium. We will never see any of this again. In the near future, this figure will pass into the iconography that will be studied and communicated on the Internet, the virtual image of a virtual reality. In the film, man and artist coexist. In the film, his face is there – his obstinate expression, his gaze, his voice. A real presence, not an echo. It is the joy, the warmth and the beauty of an encounter. Our encounter. The completion of a journey. A journey of initiation in which the gaze of the disciple magnifies the master, stories that are possible only between human beings.”
The works are part of the Kyo Noir Collection of contemporary African art.