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Pascale Marthine Tayou

Black Forest

The Ghent-based Cameroon-born artist Pascale Marthine Tayou is part of a generation of African artists who tackle post-colonial issues by mixing the experiences they have of their countries of origin with those they have of the western world.

His multi-facetted work is imbued with the many shifts between these different geographical contexts: “Pascale Marthine Tayou is a nomad in his life, in the materials he uses, in his artistic sources, and in the way he thinks”, observed the art critic Roberta Smith in a recent article in the New York Times.

His native land is always present in his praxis. “This relationship”, the artist explains, “has to do with the question of origins. Cameroon is my ‘trademark’, where everything started. I was born and raised there, by my parents, my friends, and the street. I want to include all that in my work.” His works explore the permeable nature of the boundaries between personal history and collective history. They also raise especially significant issues concerning Africa, such as the construction of cultural and national identity, relations between rulers and ruled, and exchanges between North and South.

Pascale Marthine Tayou Plastic Tree B, 2010
© Courtesy: Galleria Continua, San Gimignano / Beijing / Le Moulin Photo: Oak Taylor-Smith

Assuming forms as varied as installation, sculpture, video, photography and drawing, his works reveal a world whose vitality and inventive spirit may call to mind the atmosphere of African metropolises. They are, in particular, hallmarked by the use of recycled materials, like coloured plastic objects and bags, rags, old clothes, reject objects and wrecked cars: all of which are symptomatic of contemporary society. These heterogeneous items are linked together through narratives, drawings and notes which highlight different passages, juxtapositions, short circuits and readings.

Pascale Marthine Tayou has been invited to come up with a work for the Grand Hall of Mudam. His answer is Home Sweet Home, an installation taking the form of a city perched 16 feet up, set on a wooden structure. Made of tree trunks, African statuettes, a whole host of bird cages and a whole network of wires, headphones and loudspeakers broadcasting sounds of birds, this construction, conceived as an organic forest, constructs an ever-expanding imaginary landscape. For the artist the installation represents a “question about the imagination of a consumerist world where everything is mixed together.”

In the garden level Foyer, Jpegafrica/Africagift (2006) presents the flags of the 54 African states in a pile: with this sculptural metaphor, the artist broaches the different cultural identities of the black continent. He regards the flag of his native land as nothing less than a “self-portrait”.


  • Enrico Lunghi