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John Goba





Born 1944, Mattru Jong, Sierra Leone, worked in Freetown, died in 2019.

Of Mende origin, John Goba was born into the hermetic milieu of women’s Bondo Society, in which his grandmother played an important role. Goba came of age under her protection, and at the end of his period of initiation, he settled in Mountain Cut, a district in Freetown. There, when he was around thirty, he experienced a revelation which prompted him to begin making masks for the Ode-lay initiation rituals and masquerades that had sprung up in Freetown in the 1970s. Ode-lay masks and dress are characterized by an extraordinary ornamental exuberance, incorporating unexpected materials (such as Christmas tree ornaments) to achieve spectacular effects. Goba’s first masks, made of wood and brightly coloured with industrial paint, initially followed Ode-lay customs. As he became more experienced, he began to create sculptures with greater freedom.

Goba’s imagery is inspired by the traditional lore and mysteries of his environment and his sculptures are a skilful blend of figures borrowed from time-honoured tales and his own fantasies. A multitude of porcupine quills invariably protrude from the main characters of his tableaux, as if assuring their protection and forbidding any access to the heart—or secret core—of the work. Each sculpture, Goba likes to say, has its own private history to which only the artist has the key.

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2019
Alpha Crucis, Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo, Norway (01.22 to 09.30 2020)

2017
Art/Afrique, le nouvel atelier. Les Initiés, un choix d’œuvres (1989 – 2009) dans la collection d’art africain contemporain de Jean Pigozzi. Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France (04/26/17 to 09/04/17)


2016
Lumières d'Afriques, Donwahi Foundation, Abidjan, Ivory Coast

2012
Africa / Africa, Centre d’art contemporain, Meymac, France

2011
Art Paris, Just Art! Grand Palais, Paris, France

2010
African Stories
Marrakech Art Fair, Marrakech

2006
100% Africa
Guggenheim Museum
Bilbao, Spain

2005
Arts of Africa
Grimaldi Forum
Monaco - France

2005
African Art Now : Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection
Museum of Fine Art Houston
Houston - USA

2003
Magic Markers: Objects of Transformation
Des Moines Art Center
Des Moines, Iowa - USA

2001
Anima Tribale, Corpo Metropolitano: Arte africana contemporanea/Tribal Soul. Metropolitan Body: Contemporary African art.
Galleria Spazia
Bologna – Italy

2001
Venice Biennal.
Venice, Italy.

2000
Lyon 5th Biennal of Contemporary Art.
Lyon, France.

1998-1999
7. Triennale der Kleinplastik
Zeitgenössische Skulptur.
SüdwestLB Forum.
Stuttgart, Germany.

1993
LA GRANDE VERITE, LES ASTRES AFRICAINS
Nantes Fine Arts Museum. France.

1992
OUT OF AFRICA
Saatchi Collection.
London, Great Britain.

1991
Africa Explore The Center for African Art,
New York, United States.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

2017
Les Initiés, un choix d’œuvres (1989 – 2009) dans la collection d’art africain contemporain de Jean Pigozzi. Editions Dilecta, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France. Exhibition catlaogue

2006
100% Africa
Exhibition catalogue. Published by TF Editores & FMGB Guggenheim Bilbao Museum.

2005
African Art Now: Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection
Exhibition catalogue. Published by Merrell.

1998
7. Triennale der Kleinplastik
Zeitgenössische Skulptur. Exhibition catalogue, text in German.
Europa Afrika: John Goba by Jacques Soulillou.

1996
Contemporary Art of Africa : John Goba by Jacques Soulillou.
Text in English. Edited by André Magnin & Jacques Soulillou.
Publisher Harry N. Abraams.

1993
" La Grande Vérité, Les Astres Africains "
John Goba by Jacques Soulillou. Text in French.
Nantes Fine Arts Museum publication, France.

1991
AFRICA EXPLORES
Exhibition catalogue, text in English.
The Center for African Art.
New York, United States.