Romuald Hazoumè

Romuald Hazoumè
Romuald Hazoumè, ARTicle 14, Débrouille-toi, toi-même! 2005

Romuald Hazoumè skilfully employs a wide variety of media in his artworks, including painting, video, photography and sculpture.
Using everyday found objects, his fertile imagination combines this diversity to create a striking range of individual sculptures and largescale installations. As well as being wryly humorous, his work is also deeply serious - even unsettling - deploying his trenchant critiques of imperialism and consumerism to comment upon the everchanging role of Africa within the contemporary global economy.

Wooden masks were amongst the first items to be exchanged between Africa and the West. Hazoumè’s tongue-in-cheek ‘African masks,’ fashioned from discarded plastic bottles and other found objects, belie their historic and cultural pretensions as traditional ritual objects whilst roundly mocking Western perceptions of African art. Exploiting the brain’s hard-wired ability to see faces in objects, each mask becomes a portrait suggesting an actual person or type. Here too Hazoumè underlines a point that is as political as it is environmental, ‘I send back to the West that which belongs there, that is to say, the refuse of a consumer society that invades us (in Africa) every day.’

ARTicle 14 displays an actual street-trader’s cart from Benin, which would normally carry a range of soft drinks, beer, plastic toys, brushes, footballs, razors, pans, etc. but now displays stillfunctioning goods that have been thrown away in the West – objects made redundant by technological advance and the constant flooding of the market with ‘better’ new products. The title refers to the scurrilous rumour that all African constitutions contain a hypothetical final article (ARTicle 14: Débrouille-toi, toimême.) which translates as ‘When all else fails, do what you need to do, because no-one else is looking out for you!’ The work reflects on the stark realities of life in Africa today, highlighting the daily struggles of the street vendor, forced to look out for himself by inventing resourceful new strategies to keep himself and his family alive.

Hazoumè’s video work La Roulette Béninoise depicts the army of Benin’s illegal petrol smugglers who ferry contraband petrol between Nigerian sources and their local consumers. Estimates suggest that 90% of all fuel used in Benin passes through these black-market channels. The black plastic jerry cans are heated over flames to expand their carrying capacity, but this also weakens the containers. The overloaded motorbikes transporting contraband fuel are prone to accidents and fatal explosions. Hazoumè first decided to record this footage when he realised that no-one in the West believed that such trafficking was really happening. His poignant documentation sheds a
disquieting light on the pervasive exploitation of human labour, which Hazoumè sees as a modern manifestation of slavery still occurring, on our watch, today.


Born in 1962 in Porto-Novo, Republic of Benin. Lives and works in Benin.

Solo shows include Romuald Hazoumè, Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), Dublin, 2011 (touring); Romuald Hazoumè: My Paradise – Made in Porto-Novo, Gerisch-Stiftung, Neumünster, Germany, 2010; Romuald Hazoumè: Made in Porto-Novo,  October Gallery, London, UK,
2009; La Bouche du Roi, British Museum, 2007, followed by a national UK tour; Documenta XII, Kassel, Germany, 2007; La Bouche du Roi, Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, France, 2006.

Hazoumè’s work is regularly shown in international group exhibitions and is held in the collections of the British Museum, the Jean Pigozzi Collection and the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia.

Works in the show

ARTicle 14, Débrouille-toi, toi-même!, 2005,

Multi-media installation

Courtesy October Gallery, London

Photo: Romuald Hazoumè

Copyright Romuald Hazoumè, DACS

Wax Bandana

Found objects

Photo: Jonathan Greet, October Gallery, London

Copyright: Romuald Hazoumè, DACS



Found objects

Photo: Jonathan Greet, October Gallery, London

Copyright: Romuald Hazoumè, DACS


Martin Barlow, curator of the exhibition Moving Into Space at the National Football Museum talks about the exhibition.

Barthélémy Toguo, Lucy Azubuike and Nnenna Okore, three of the exhibited artists, talk about their work and their interest in using materials which reflect the lifestyle and experience of the people of West Africa.

Twitter (#wefaceforward)

Creative Tourist


Nine countries show off their talent as five city venues link up for a summer celebration. Helen Nugent in the Guardian

Street life, dazzling dress, social commentary and a riot of sensuous colour interweave in a rich assembly of West African art, writes Charles Gore in the Times Higher Education