Julien Sinzogan (Beninese, born 1957) Departure and Return of Spirits, a pair 70 x 100cm (27 9/16 x 39 3/8in) each

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Lot 91
Julien Sinzogan
(Beninese, born 1957)
Departure and Return of Spirits, a pair 70 x 100cm (27 9/16 x 39 3/8in) each

£ 10,000 - 15,000
US$ 12,000 - 19,000
Julien Sinzogan (Beninese, born 1957)
Departure and Return of Spirits, a pair
both signed 'Sinzogan' (lower right)
coloured inks on paper
70 x 100cm (27 9/16 x 39 3/8in) each
(2)

Footnotes

  • Julien Sinzogan was born in the Republic of Benin, once one of the largest slave-trading ports on the West African coast. The Yoruba people of Benin and Nigeria believe life takes a cyclical trajectory through which individuals experience the tangible world (aye), depart to the spirit world (orun) and are reborn. The voyages between such realms lie at the heart of religious practice across much of the Atlantic world, a world forever shaped by another voyage: the middle passage of the Atlantic slave trade. Sinzogan's works often feature ships and depict the mythical return journeys that carried away the people of Benin and other areas of West Africa to be slaves in the New World.

    This pair of fine pen and ink works refer to the ‘Gates of No Return' – the ports of the West African coast through which millions of enslaved Africans passed. By picturing these ports not as a site of loss, but as the arrival point for the homeward return of lost spirits, Sinzogan’s work offers a message of potential redemption and healing. The ships in his images are not the gruesome carriers of the Middle Passage, but otherworldly vessels, bedecked with Egungun masquerade costumes, and peopled with spirits, diviners and ancestral ghosts. His works explore the relationship between the visible human world and the invisible spirit world, and the voyage between these realms that lies at the heart of religious practice across much of the Atlantic world. He explains: “there are voyages which should never have been… the Middle Passage for example… there are spiritual voyages, such as a meeting with a Babalawo, well known for travelling between visible and invisible worlds… and there are imaginary voyages, through Gates of Return, and Gates of No-Return…”

    Julien Sinzogan lives and works in Paris. After studying architecture in Tashkent and then in Paris, he now devotes his time to drawing and painting. He often combines monochrome drawing with coloured forms which draw upon the sources of vodun and history in Benin. A special commission made for "Uncomfortable Truths: the shadow of slave trading on contemporary art and design" showed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2007 and his work featured in the Voyages exhibition at October Gallery.

    We are most grateful to the October Gallery for their assistance in the preparation of this catalogue entry.
Julien Sinzogan (Beninese, born 1957) Departure and Return of Spirits, a pair 70 x 100cm (27 9/16 x 39 3/8in) each
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