Born in 1966 at Sinfra (Côte d’Ivoire), Jems Koko Bi lives and works at Essen (Germany). Gratuated from National Institut of Arts and Action Culture at Abidjan, he wins in 1997 the DAAD Scholarsip after working with the artist Klauss Simon. He was rewarded from several prices and he already exposed in Germany, Senegal, Cuba, Italy, USA, France and Côte d’Ivoire.
The exhibition “Terre d’origine” is a new opportunity to integrate the universe of Jems Koko Bi where wood is a noble material that transmits us many messages.
Terre d’Origine, an initiatory journey
Jems Koko Bi is a nature and earth lover. His relationship with the wood comes from his childhood in Gouro country (for info. People Gouro is a people of the Greater West of the Côte d’Ivoire). It is therefore natural that he realised 1 month and half retirement period in the forest of Agboville (located in the south of the Côte d’Ivoire) with 4 other sculptors to work the wood.
The artist, in perfect harmony with nature, never cuts down a tree to work. He creates his works from dead trees and give its a new life by writing the story from their bowels.
This work set in the forest was immortalized by photographers Armand Gauz and Dorris Haron Kasco. Portraits of Jems Koko Bi cover the walls of the Fondation Donwahi and lead us to the back-neck where the works have been exposed in the open air, suffering the vagaries of the weather, as well as to reintroduce them into their natural environment and to transform them as living sculptures.
The work of realization of these sculptures need to be understood as a return to the sources, a return to the land of origin to live there this initiatory journey in the heart of the forest.
Terre d’Origine, Land of Origin, Land of Hope, Land of Hospitality
The exhibition is composed of 5 pieces : ‘Merina’, ‘Vestiges d’Azobé’, ‘Missing Leg’, ‘Les Médiateurs’ and ‘2 chairs in Love’.
- Merina, the main piece of the exhibition “Land of Origin”, was designed by Jems Koko Bi before he entered the forest. It is a pyramid composed of carved and burnt heads. It refers to the origin of the life through the Pyramid of the origins. It is realized with the wood of Merina, a particular wood which have withstood the test of time. The work is even more impressive the night because the heads seems to tell theirs own stories.
- Vestiges of Azobé is a work born from the discovery of the artist of slices of a wood of Azobé cut, eaten with more than 10 years old. This wood is particular because termites eat the bark but not the interior. Jems Koko Bi carved the woods according to their furrows. It is the trees that have told their story. Vestiges of Azobé is composed of three parts : the first one represents Men, the second one women and the third one children as for gathering the family.
- Missing Leg represents a healthy, strong and robust leg with some imperfections that the artist wanted to value. The aim is to make a tribute to all the sick and injured legs. This work was made in memory of the attacks in Bassam (March 13, 2016) where the nephew of Jems Koko Bi get a shot in the leg which caused him a foot loosing. The artist exploits the natural injuries of the wood to explain this universal wound: the mutilation.
- Les Médiateurs is a work made in hard and red Azobé wood. It represents the dialogue between 6 mediators who are high, strong, imposant and supported by a strong material. They are 6 because the even numbers favorise cohesion, sharing and solidarity as well as their positioning in a circle for explaining the unity. By cutting off the head of the Mediators, the artist illustrates the idea that the message must come from the heart.
- 2 chairs in Love is the representation of two deconstructed chairs installed facing a straight chair. We assists here in the staging of a game of seduction between two deformed chairs towards the third. The two chairs are disturbed, disarticulated, upset by their emotions. They lose all their countenance in front of the third chair. This game of seduction is also an allegory to the power race in politic. The struggle for the throne. Here we see an illustration of Côte d’Ivoire, the right and serene chair, and disoriented politicians who are fighting for power.
All are a way of reminding us the foundations of Côte d’Ivoire, the Land of Origin, Land of Hospitality and Land of Hope. Côte d’Ivoire suffered and suffers mutilations arising from disputes between disconnected politicians. Those men have not listen to their hearts and their deep love for the Land of Origin. That’s why, Jems Koko Bi invite us to analyse the ups and downs of the Côte d’Ivoire story through these impressive exhibition.