Born 1958, Cotonou, Benin
Died in Cotonou, Benin, 2003
Born a twin into Fon culture, Zinsou was brought into the world with a particularly rich heritage. The name zinsou is traditionally given to male twins, who are considered to be geniuses and their birth and existence is heavily interwoven with myths. In the collective imagination, they are perceived as phenomenal beings, a gift from the Gods. They are said to be haunted by the spirits of creativity. They discern things that are inaccessible to ordinary mortals and are capable of communicating with extra-sensory worlds. Among the Fon and the Yoruba, they are treated with a respect that is close to worship.
His representational paintings, with their simplistic, even childish shapes and colours, are almost reminiscent of art brut or Outsider Art. They are mostly of strange creatures, created spontaneously and soberly, without any prior sketching. Both in his painting, and his lifestyle in Benin, he is a genuine outside, which is probably why Zinsou has been ostracized under the convenient alibi of madness. Zinsou works with total freedom and insouciance. His brilliant paintings are characterized by great originality and complete strangeness. They contain no message, and perhaps their only secret is their explosive beauty, which goes way beyond the boundaries of normality.
With contributions from Simon Agbe-Capko
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
Arts of Africa
Monaco - France
African Art Now : Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection
Museum of Fine Art Houston
BENIN / BENIN
TUSSEN GISTEREN / MORGEN
Van Reekum Museum
African Art Now: Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection
Exhibition catalogue. Published by Merrell.
Contemporary Art of Africa
Territory : Zinsou p.34-36, text in English by Simon Agbe-Capko.
Edited by André Magnin & Jacques Soulillou
Publisher Harry N. Abraams.
"Revue Noire" African Contemporary Art, N°18/ BENIN
Zinsou by Simon Njami, bilingual text French, English.