Art in the Diaspora

ANA Spotlight: Hyacinthe Ouattara

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Hyacinthe Ouattara is a self-taught plastic artist from Burkina Faso. His work delves into the intricate world of molecular vibrations, connecting personal DNA to survival in this vast and complex world. His name is a direct translation of the English word Hyacinth and the Greek god Hyakinthos. He is currently showcasing an amazing body of work titled La Mémoire du Monde curated by Mary-Lou Ngwe-Secke at 193 Gallery in Paris.

Trace, 2022.Encre sur toile. 157 × 122 cm. Image courtesy of Artsy.

As a child, Hyacinthe’s artistic expressions took the form of ghost-like images, portraying the human body as a suit. Most of his creations exude a rhythmic, free, and spontaneous energy, symbolizing the essence of creativity and being. Deeply rooted in the cosmogonic theories of Burkina Faso’s Bobo ethnic group, Hyacinthe’s work draws inspiration from their belief in the delicate balance of opposing forces. Wuro, the supreme God in their pantheon, shoulders the responsibility of maintaining the equilibrium of opposing forces. The opposing forces are male/female, domesticated/wild, and cold/hot amongst others. In Bobo mythology, the opposing forces are regarded as precarious elements, easily disrupted by human interference.

In this respect, Hyacinthe Ouattara refers to himself as a messenger of the intangible. His work merges matter, energy, and color to create human cartographies, that explore the interconnectivity of opposing balances. Using textures and fabrics, Hyacinthe weaves stories of memory, creating a visual plane that bridges the spiritual plane and our current reality.

His solo exhibition, titled “La Memoire du Monde” (Memory of the World), creates a reality free from judgment. Threads and deep colors, like blue, welcome viewers into Hyacinthe’s world, inviting them to explore beyond conventional boundaries. Through the incorporation of raw and ancestral materials, Hyacinthe’s work provides a plane between the spiritual and reality—a space where memories are not merely recalled but actively created. He further incorporates the profound words of the famous Afro-Caribbean philosopher Edouard Glissant. This creates a resonance with audiences of African descent at large. In some way, his work serves as both a call to action and a necessity. He calmly urges individuals to pause and reflect on the intricate interplay of the universe.

Composite, 2020. Textile. 180 × 130 × 10 cm
Edition of 1. Image courtesy of Artsy.

An aesthetic on the verge of unconventional avant-garde art in Burkina Faso characterizes Hyacinthe’s artistic style. He progressively emancipates the material with each thread, providing a flowy movement in time and space. This poetic communication of his surroundings constructs an alternate universe free from all judgment and boundaries. His work becomes a collection of past stories, echoing the mythologies of the Bobo cosmogonic tradition, forming a beautiful poetic connection.

Hyacinthe Ouattara emerges as an artist to watch, as his work not only allows you to exist but encourages a state of mere being. Through his art, he aims to create a world with no judgment. His work is a simple yet profound explanation of what was, what is, and what is yet to come. Inspired by his Burkina Faso origin, his work resonates deeply with issues of balance, memory, and identity. With this, he urges viewers to fluidly interact with their environment, as they are exactly where they ought to be. Be sure to check out this amazing exhibition at 193 Gallery between January 6th and 24th of February, 2024.


Rose Mwikali Musyoki is a creative writer from Nairobi, Kenya. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Business and Finance from the University of Embu, Kenya, and is the founder of Bloom Inc, an art startup in Kenya. Currently, she works as a writer for Art News Africa.

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