Dan Houèdo (Rainbow Serpent) signed 'TOKODAGBA (sic) CYPRIEN', inscribed 'BENIN ABOMEY' (lower right) and inscribed 'DAN HOUÈDO' (lower left) oil on canvas 78 x 112cm (30 11/16 x 44 1/8in). unframed
Exhibited: London, October Gallery, 'Rendering Visible - Contemporary Art from Benin', 15 Nov 2000 27 January 2001.
Cyprien Tokoudagba began his artistic career as a restorer of the royal palaces of Abomey. Working at first-hand with the remaining artefacts of royal power gave him exceptional access to the fading traditions and symbolic systems of the Fon kings. Himself an initiate of various vodun societies, his artwork was originally only found adorning the walls of vodun temples, but, since he began using canvas, in 1989, his haunting portraits of gods and the iconic representations of Abomey's kings can now also be found in major museums around the world.
Tokoudagba's work thus transmits into the present the traditional symbology of the Fon and the complex world-view it contains. The representation of the Dan-Aïdo Houèdo, the sacred rainbow python, grasping its tail in its mouth, signifies continuity and the eternal return. An African ouroboros, it further indicates the broad community of symbols shared by so many different cultures around the world.
We are most grateful to the October Gallery for their assistance in the preparation of this catalogue entry.