From January, 9th to February, 10th, we are glad to propose "QUITTER LA VILLE", an exhibition featuring works by Moustapha Baidi Oumarou and Omar Mahfoudi



In the context of the current international health crisis, leaving the city appears to be an escape route. If a time existed where cities embodied endless possibilities, they could reveal to be suffocating, objects of boredom, isolation and even danger. The health, ecological and economic situation also stirs this temptation of an urban exodus. 

However, the city and its torments inspired generations of artists. Some of them - from the impressionists Monet and Caillebotte, to the street artists who thrive in city centers. Photographers such as Andreas Gursky or Michael Tsegaye and Andrew Esiebo document and play with the mutations of urban space, its harmony as well as its chaos. Others, like Houston Maludi, are mesmerised by its meanders and fascinated by the rhythm of its architecture. If the city feeds the imagination, it is also a source of alienation. Cameroonian painter Jean David Nkot illustrates this relation of domination between the territory and the body in ”The Shadows of Space” series. Here, the city erases the faces of those who dreamed of it. 

The exhibition “Quitter la Ville” deviates from the bustle of the city, offering a complete immersion into the welcoming and lush nature depicted by artists Moustapha Baidi Oumarou and Omar Mahfoudi. In both of their work, nature embodies an ideal. If one reinterprets the world and the other captures the “mystical beauty” with his brushes, both of them explore this “flower boy”: sensitive being, a symbol of humanity and joy, who conveys hope and optimism. 

Acrylic and posca on canvas
140 X 130 cm

In the middle of dense vegetation, the characters of Moustapha Baidi Oumarou leave the city. These fashionable outlines are deepened into nature. The natural elements the young painter introduces in his works contribute to the universality of his pacifist message. He specifies: “My characters represent the “flower boy.” They embody moments of humanity, moments of joy and pictures of love.” Like his characters, with no face nor citizenship, it is impossible to precisely identify the plants - like shadows - punctuating his canvases. From the twigs and leaves framing or hiding his characters, to the flowers melting with their skin - like a tattoo - in Moustapha Baidi Oumarou’s art, human beings and nature seem to be one. There is something unreal in the jungle he depicts. It is almost supernatural, between tale and utopia. Characters hide in this artificial nature, sheltered from the perturbations of the outside.  This cocoon out of the world protects them from the city and its threats.

Ideologically, it is reminiscent of American philosopher Henry David Thoreau’s anti-urban speech, where nature, idealised, regenerates the life surrounding it. However, here, there is no rejection or fear of the city, only a desire to universalise his speech and calm the spirit. The scene is both vague and precise enough to enable anyone to project themselves. And if I could contrast my existence? And if I could focus on the positive aspects of my life? And if I could be happy?

Aesthetically, we could think of South African photographer Athi-Patricia Ruga’s pictures where palm trees and flowers set up a dreamlike decor. Like in his photographs, fiction and reality intertwine. If he lives in Maroua - a city located in the extreme north of Cameroon, exposed to political conflicts - Moustapha Baidi Oumarou seeks above all to provide happiness to those who look at his paintings. Thus, the hope of a world where only moments of joy and friendship exist in his work. From this composition emerges mystery, goodwill and serenity. Far from the chaos of the city, under Moustapha Baidi Oumarou’s brushes, an ideal world appears: a collection of happiness and love.

Untitled drawing by Omar Mahfoudi, artist from Morocco OMAR MAHFOUDI
Ink on paper
176 X 150 cm

Men and women in the forest or young swimmers alone in the middle of a lake are as many figures displayed in Moroccan artist Omar Mahfoudi’s work. Intriguing, these phantasmagorical bodies are immersed in an unknown environment. There is a call to nature emerging from the paper. That is a call to come back to the origin of the world, to rethink the universe facing its instability. He explains: “In a general way, these past years I have been inspired by the climate emergency, the idea of leaving the city and a mystical exile. We live in a world with lots of issues: epidemics, poverty, exodus. I aim to talk about a kind of mystical beauty and to depict it in my paintings.” Behind his work, an ecological consciousness arises. He initiates, throughout, the idea to side with nature.

Some of his drawings showcase a man, alone, surrounded by flowers. This ‘flower boy’ as he likes to call him, embodies self-acceptance and the acceptance of one’s sensibility, as well as the abandonment of the fear to not fit with the criteria and expectations of society. He analyses: “When I was in my twenties, I hated carrying a bouquet in public. For me, it was the opposite of being virile. At that time, I wanted to be seen as a bad boy and not a flower boy.” The flower boy is the man who decided to live the way he wants to live, to come back to his nature and to nature itself.

The ink runs and gives a dramatical expression to the faces, reminiscent of portraits by Francis Bacon. Following the path of the ink, the sensible outlines become mysterious, mystical rather than disturbing. The ink provides some permeability to the whole: subjects and decor melt and merge. There is no defined space anymore. Everything is colour.

The city, as Emile Durkheim noticed, has this capacity to anonymise individuals, to make them one being among million others. Would leaving the city be finally finding oneself? Thus, in his style and sensitivity, Moustapha Baidi Oumarou and Omar Mahfoudi both invite the viewer to see the world differently.


For more information and to get the pass release, please contact Michaëla Hadji-Minaglou at michaela@afikaris.com