Ivorian artist, Sess Essoh is currently presenting his first solo show in Germany titled “Homage” at Galerie Melbye-Konan. The exhibition is a tribute to the often-overlooked figures of Africa’s past. Spread across 400 square meters, the artist employs his colorful paintings to explore our collective memory of these individuals. In this series, Essoh brings to life prominent figures from Black African history through vivid collages using colors, thread and paste to masterfully intertwine these individual stories into a cohesive narrative that goes beyond the usual colonial narratives.
His art is characterized by themes of imagination, history, and sociology and a concentrated focus on tangible and desired ideals of liberation which manifests in his abstract paintings. An example is his painting: Myriam Makeba and Queen A’ Nzinga of Angola (2022) where he blends onto a canvas with pink and peach background images of these two remarkable women; Miriam Makeba, a civil rights activist and singer who opposed South African apartheid, and Queen Nzinga, a 17th-century leader of what is now northern Angola, known for her military resistance against the Portuguese. Overlapping these collaged photos are black pastel lines, scribbles, and a faceless figure. In this artwork, Essoh commemorates Africa’s history of female resistance and rebellion, immortalizing the strong and powerful faces that appear weathered and worn like concert posters. His current artistic practice delves into the examination of his socio-political surroundings and the society he perceives as losing its moral compass and values.
Sess Essoh, earned his MFA in art from the National School of Fine Arts in Abidjan in 2012. He lives and works in Abidjan, Bingerville where he has his studio and Dabou. In 2017, he received the second prize from the International Association of Art Critics in Ivory Coast. His abstract mixed-media paintings which was showcased at the booth of his gallery, LouiSimone Guirandou alongside Galerie Melbye-Konan at the contemporary African art fair 1-5 in 2022, were completely sold out. His works can be found in the collection of Société Générale, a French bank, as well as in the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation and many private collections.
The artist, who is also a writer, expresses his increasing fascination with the way global social events are documented and disseminated, and points out that Black African histories are often disregarded or erased by Euro-American audiences. Through his practice, Essoh reimagines Africa’s history by using ordinary materials to create alternative narratives, as a rebellious act against colonial oppression.