DON'T FORGET WHERE THIS PATH LEADS
LEFT. SEYDOU KEÏTA, LE GÉANT AVEC LE BÉBÉ 1948/1951, Photography.
RIGHT. MATTHEW EGUAVOEN, DON'T FORGET WHERE THIS PATH LEADS, 2022, Acrylic and oil on canvas. 160x120 cm.
Matthew Eguavoen's paintings are imbued with photographic influences and reflect observations of Nigerian society through internal questions. The artist recreates the emblematic photograph Le géant avec le bébé (1948/51) by Seydou Keïta through the medium of painting to highlight themes of identity and fatherhood.
One of the most iconic pictures by the Malian photographer, Le géant et le bébé features Billaly, a dignitary from Bamako, and his daughter. While Keïta democratised studio photography by immortalising anonymous people, Eguavoen appropriates this practice by switching to another medium. He anchors his portraits in the tradition of family portraits and contributes to the comeback of painting. The Nigerian painter utilises his artwork in order to explore his relationship with paternity while inviting thought on social issues. Thus, whilst the original work plays on the physical difference between this giant and this baby, Eguavoen focuses more on their relationship. Through Don’t forget where this part leads, he carries the voice of the father and reminds this child to not forget from where she comes. This portrait tells the story of these children who grow up outside of the continent for education and never see the need to want to come back home because of reasons like insecurity and an unstable economy.
Seydou Keïta used to take pictures of his clients wearing Occidental clothing - at a time when Mali was a French colony - Le géant et le bébé introduces a man dressed with a traditional boubou in Bazin - Malian handmade cotton. This outfit echoes Eguavoen’s approach, itself marked by a post-colonial reflection, which studies the impact of fashion on the affirmation of one’s identity.
Thus, Matthew Eguavoen uses this iconic image to advocate the importance of one's roots and origins in the construction of one's identity.
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