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Ivory Coast’s Obou Gbais is Painting the Story of His Life

Through richly detailed paintings, Ivorian artist Obou Gbais, tells the story of the human condition in present day Cote d’Ivoire. By drawing on the culture of his ancestors, he has reappropriated their Dan Mask into his works, thereby forging a connection between historic and contemporary identities. The artist’s work mirrors the society found in the aftermath of the Ivory Coast’s political-military unrest, putting paint on the harsh conditions he witnessed in capital city Abidjan. The emotive expressions donned on the Dan masked faces speak to Obou’s acknowledgment of his people and the shameful conditions forced upon them due to a war that didn’t involve them. As the artist puts it, “The main theme is the human condition, the characteristics, major events, and situations that make up the essence of human existence” and tapping into his ancestry allows the talent to soothe all aspects of his identity, one paint stroke at a time