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Frédéric Bruly Bouabré

Frédéric Bruly Bouabré (1923-2014) was an Ivorian poet and artist.

 

Bruly Bouabré first worked as a clerk for various government offices in colonized Ivory Coast. While working, he completed hundreds of small sketches.

In 1948, a vision he received in a dream led him to cease his work as a civil servant. He decided to dedicate himself to giving Africa its own visual language. His aim was to preserve and transmit the knowledge of cultures that didn't have a writing system, including the Bété culture, which he originated from.

 

He developed a syllabary composed of more than 440 monosyllabic pictograms. This language is portrayed on some 1,000 small cardboard cards using ballpoint pens and crayons, with symbolic imagery surrounded by text, each carrying a divinatory message and comments on life and history. 

 

With this language, Bruly Bouabré transcribed tales and poems from the Bété culture. As for the illustrations, he drew inspiration from the local folklore, but also from geometric shapes that were found on stones in a Bété village.

Entitled "Connaissance du monde" (lit. Knowledge of the world), his oeuvre consists of thousands of drawings organized in series, groups, sub-groups and units.

It is a complete cosmogony, reflecting his African roots as well as his encyclopedic ideal. According to the artist, it represents all that is revealed or hidden, such as signs, divine thoughts, dreams, myths, sciences, traditions.

 

"Connaissance du monde" was exhibited for the first time in Europe in 1989 at the "Magiciens de la Terre" exhibition, in Centre Georges Pompidou and Grande halle de la Villette, Paris.

His work is now featured in large private and institutional collections and has been presented in most major museums and biennials.

"Now that we are recognized as artists, our duty is to organize ourselves into a society, and in such a way to create a structure for discussion and exchange between those who acquire and those who create. From there can arise a happy worldwide civilization." - Frédéric Bruly Bouabré