London

Cyprien Tokoudagba
Born in 1939 in Abomey, Benin. Died in 2012 in Abomey.

Cyprien Tokoudagba’s work draws from the present whilst illuminating the traditional symbolism of the Fon people and their complex world-view. Tokoudagba began his artistic career as a restorer of the royal palaces of Abomey, the site of one of the most powerful kingdoms of the western coast of Africa. Working first-hand with the remaining artefacts gave him exceptional access to the fading traditions and symbolic systems of the heritage of the Fon kings (1625 – 1900).

As an initiate of various Vodun societies (‘vodun’ meaning spirit in the Fon and Ewe languages), his artwork originally adorned the walls of Vodun temples as frescoes; however, in 1989, Tokoudagba began to use canvas, and, consequently, his haunting portraits of gods and iconic representations of Abomey’s kings can now also be found in major museums around the world. His work has been shown extensively in exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Tate Liverpool, the Hayward Gallery in London, the Mori and Tobu Museums of Art in Tokyo and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., among others.

Cyprien Tokoudagba, 'Agbogbolinsou', 2007 acrylic on canvas.