Vohou Vohou By Vincent, Cédric
Vohou Vohou refers to a group of artists from Côte d’Ivoire who came together at the beginning of the 1970s. The main members were Youssouf Bath, Théodore Koudougnon, Mathilde Moreau, Kra N’Guessan and Yacouba Touré. Vohou emerged as a movement of pictorial research in which “materials of retrieval” and abstract painting could be made to redefine a new specificity within the multifarious identity of the Ivoirian artist. Kra N’Guessan defines Vohou as “neither a style, nor a school, it is a spirit” (Kra 1990: 98). Vohou artists aimed to emancipate themselves from the Western canon taught in the Abidjan art school by challenging classical painting methods. They drew inspiration from the cultural traditions of West Africa (glyphs, esoteric symbols), and used recycled materials in their immediate environment (chewed paper, beads, strings, bird feathers, wood, sand etc.) as alternatives to expensive and imported materials such as canvas and oil paints. They painted with recycled objects and natural pigments mixed with organic materials. At the same time, they renounced any tendencies toward figuration in order to develop a radical dialogue with abstract painting. This principle of self-sufficiency referred to an indigenous mindset while contributing to an artistic avant-garde. “We want to Africanize Ivorian painting!” wrote Youssouf Bath in the manifesto La Révolution Vohou. In that way, the Vohou movement appears as a belated realization of artistic movements that escorted the idea of national culture since Independence, such as the concept of Natural Synthesis founded by the painter Uche Okeke in Nigeria.