FNB Art Joburg
Sandton Convention
Centre, Johannesburg,
South Africa

Artist of Interest

Toward an autonomous archive

with Pélagie Gbaguidi

A prominent voice from the African continent, Pélagie Gbaguidi’s practice does the urgent work of abandoning singularity for a plurality that suggests that the histories that we have inherited are the result of multiple decisions, made simultaneously. Processing them like Gbaguidi does is, therefore, a non-linear feat that requires the ability to connect the past, present and future while embodying ancestral knowledge.

Catalysed by witnessing a chameleon in the process of camouflage, when she was four years old, the premise of Gbaguidi practice was developed from thriving towards building a “chameleonic skin” that is made up of equal parts of “encounters, intuition, determination and infinite hazard.”

Working as an intermediary between personal memory and inherited ancestral past, Pélagie Gbaguidi uses her practice to actively build an anthology that refuses to forget what was supposed to be erased. Through painting, drawing, performance and installation, she refuses the confines that try to simplify West African history.

There is no linearity when witnesses, who lived what we know as histories, share their stories. Prompted by the context, the dissemination of histories is bound to oscillate. From transfusion through bloodlines, it moves to taught regimes and daily rituals. From whispers and songs, it manifests itself as symbols in dreams and visions. Destroyed, hidden or erased from mainstream thought, depicting these surfacing truths poses a challenge.

Aware of this, Pélagie Gbaguidi’s visual lexicon embraces abstraction as much as it does figuration because it is harmful to make what is complicated palatable, for the sake of engagement. Much like Alice Walker’s provocation, “hard times require furious dancing,” in her own words, Gbaguidi heeds the call to “express your inner revolt in drawing, in words or in dance [because] your creative fire is worth all the speeches [since] the houses are burning and the saliva is dried up.”

In May 2024, Goodman Gallery announced its representation of Beninese artist, Pélagie Gbaguidi. “As a gallery dedicated to spotlighting contemporary and historically important artists from African and the Global South more broadly, this is an exciting moment,” says owner and director of Goodman Gallery, Liza Essers. 


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