THE BATTLE FOR ABIDJAN
July 2011, by Natasha Hoare, Dazed Digital
In March 2011, the Ivory Coast was once again plunged into civil war. The incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo clung to power despite losing a general election and rebel forces stormed towns and cities attempting to oust him. As the militias clashed a 26 year old artist, Aboudia Abdoulaye Diarrassouba, remained in the blood soaked Ivorian capital Abidjan. There he painted and sketched a record of the chaos and violence surrounding him; from the armed forces which skirmished on the streets to the tags children scrawled on walls to delimit turf.
His giant canvases are populated by frightening skull-like faces with popping eyes and gaping mouths which whirl and recede amidst impasto brush strokes recalling the expressive qualities of Jean-Michel Basquiat. The claustrophobia and fear of being hemmed in to a city at war with itself is palpable, and these canvases are a striking reminder of the power of paint.
DD: This is your first solo show in the UK, how did it come about?â€¨
Aboudia: After the Ivorian crisis and the days of war there was a lot of press attention on my work. A few days later Jack Bell from the same-named gallery in London gave us a call. He convinced us with a fine concept and he really understands contemporary African art. So here I am.
DD: What is the art scene like in the Ivory Coast? Is there a sense of a new wave of young artists like yourself?
Aboudia: The last years were not easy, for nobody, especially for artists or painters. There are a lot of artists working in a traditional African style and some who are copying famous western styles and giving them an "African touch". But there are only a few who have an identity, an individual style. This is not an art scene. You know, we know each other, we are doing sometimes one of the few group exhibitions the year over together, but that's it. I'm used to being alone, I'm working alone, the most other artists don't like or don't understand my work. â€¨
DD: How has the recent civil war affected your style? What were you working on before?â€¨
Aboudia: My style? No changes, the themes changed. My work is similar to that of a journalist writing an article: I was simply describing a situation, in order to create a record of my countryâ€™s recent history. But even before the crisis I worked on similar themes, childhood in the streets, poorness, child soldiers. I'm an ambassador of the children - they do writings on the walls, their wishes, their fears, I'm doing the same on my canvas. I'm like a megaphone for these children.
THE BATTLE FOR ABIDJAN
21st June 2011, by Emily Pacey, Design Week
Although much art is conceived from turmoil and suffering, little perhaps as directly so as the work of Ivorian artist Aboudia Abdoulaye Diarrassouba, whose first solo show in the UK opens this week.
His large-scale, busy, Basquait-esque works are the product of the horrors of a country plagued by the bloody conflict of civil war.
The Ivorian presidential election late last year sparked widespread riots, plunging the Ivory Coast capital, Abidjan, into chaos and the resulting Civil War that broke out in March.
During this period, the artist - holed up in his basement studio - created a series of works in direct response to the horrific violence around him.
The vibrant, vigorous works document the conflict in brave brushstrokes; melding innocence with despair in child-like depictions of armed soldiers, skulls and a war-torn urban landscape.
Warpainting shows eerie skull figures clutching guns, staring out from the canvas at the viewer with a menace that belies the innocent-seeming daubs and mark making. Numbers and letters merge into a viscerally painted background to create a disquieting, violent surge of energy and confusion. His 2011 untitled work sees distorted figures set against police cars, abstract shapes and inset-like icons to form a disquieting flurry of marks.
Diarrassoubaâ€™s influences range from as disparate elements as his direct surroundings and neighbourhood to media adverts to comics, using these to build up multi-layered images of an environment in disarray, torn apart by brutality and violence.
VIVID PAINTINGS DEPICT MONTHS OF BLOODY CIVIL CONFLICT
12 May, 2011, SĂ©golĂ¨ne Malterre, FRANCE 24
While many Ivorian artists fled the violent civil strife that was sparked by Novemberâ€™s disputed presidential elections, one painter stayed in the country, determined to express his wartime experience.
Abdoulaye Diarrassouba, 27, a painter better know as Aboudia, lives and works in the Ivorian economic capital Abidjan, where weeks of a bloody conflict between forces loyal to former leader Laurent Gbagbo and supporters of President Alassane Ouattara have recently come to an end.
Aboudia graduated from the School of Applied Arts in Bingerville, east of Abidjan, in 2003. His vivid contemporary canvases have been exhibited in Guinea, the Netherlands, Sweden the Ivory Coast as well as online, most notably on the photo-sharing website Flickr.
I wouldnâ€™t call myself a war painter, but when the fighting got really bad in Abidjan I felt compelled to convey what I saw in my paintings. My work was similar to that of a journalist writing an article: I was simply describing a situation, in order to create a record of my countryâ€™s recent history. If it can help people remember what happened these past months, thatâ€™s good, but above all I painted these works for myself.
While some artists chose to flee the civil war, I decided to stay and continue working despite the danger. I worked in an artistâ€™s studio right next to the Golf Hotel [Ouattaraâ€™s headquarters during the post-electoral crisis], I could hear the bullets zipping through the air while I painted. When the shooting got too heavy, I hid in the cellar and I tried to imagine what was going on. As soon as things calmed down I would go back upstairs and paint everything I had in mind. Whenever I was able to go outside, I would paint everything I saw as soon as I returned. Some of my paintings were also inspired from footage I saw on the news or the Internet.
Most shops were closed for months during the crisis, so paint and other material was scarce. When I ran out of a certain colour, I would try to recreate it by mixing the little paint I had left. I also did a lot of scavenging for material for my paintings.
COTE Dâ€™IVOIRE: CAN THE CALLS FOR PEACE BE HEARD?
4 March 2011, by Kanigui, translated by Mairi Mcgivern, Global Voices Online
In the aftermath of a turbulent week in which the Cote d'Ivoire was plunged into new bouts of unprecendented violence since the presidential elections in late 2010, the United Nations has warned as to the risk of civil war.
The violence surrounding the political stand off between the country's two leaders, Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara - who each claim to have won the 2010 presidential election - is worsening.
A few Ivorian citizens have been calling for restraint on the Internet, although they are a minority. Unlike the majority of Twitter users in the country who have been fanning the flames of division on both sides, blogger Yeni Djidji describes the most recent violence in her blog [fr] as, â€śEqually ridiculousâ€ť.
In the post, Djidji deplores the destruction of buses in the former capital city of Abidjan belonging to SOTRA (Abidjanais Transport Society) by supporters of Ouattara, and condemns the reactions of the pro-Gbagbo groups who subsequently destroyed the private communal mini cars allegedly used for transport by Ouattaraâ€™s supporters.
IVORIAN ARTIST PAINTS AS BULLETS WHIZZ OVERHEAD
April 29th, 2011, by Finbarr Oâ€™Reilly, Reuters
While fighting raged on the streets outside his studio in Abidjan and stray bullets hissed through the air overhead, Ivorian artist Aboudia painted.
Only when the walls of his studio shook from the concussions of nearby explosions did Aboudia, 26, seek shelter in a basement.
"I was so afraid while I was painting all these tableaus," he said, casting a glance over a collection of work created during the months of political upheaval in the West African nation since a disputed election last November.
"Some work was hard to finish, a lot of the paint is running, dripping. It's not intentional, but it's like fear or sweat, or tears -- like my soul is crying," said Aboudia, whose full name is Abdoulaye Diarrasouba.
His work over the past few months provides a haunting interpretation of the uncertainty and violence sweeping the country since incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power after losing an election to his rival Alassane Ouattara.
The deadlock was broken when Gbagbo was arrested two weeks ago after French and United Nations forces attacked his military installations and residence.
Thousands died during the unrest. The main city of Abidjan remains awash with fighters and violence has simmered.
"Nobody knows what will happen in future, but this is a precise moment in Ivorian history," said Aboudia.
He depicted it in ghoulish paintings spanning several metres (yards), with dark shades punctuated with bright reds, yellows and blues.
"It's somber, to show the atmosphere that surrounds us," Aboudia said.
The dripping paint also makes some of the work appear as though it's melting in Abidjan's sweltering heat.
Influenced by the late American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, Aboudia blends graffiti with traditional African and modern Western art.
Crowded scenes interspersed with text and newspaper clippings capture a feeling of oppression in a city, where thick tropical vegetation presses up against dilapidated buildings and overgrown parks.