Pélagie Gbaguidi

Pélagie Gbaguidi, Spectrum of Homo mercantilis (2016), colored pencil on paper, 29 × 21 cm

Pélagie Gbaguidi, The Missing Link. Dicolonisation Education by Mrs Smiling Stone, 2017, various materials, Athens Conservatoire (Odeion), documenta 14, photo: Mathias V­ölzke

Pélagie Gbaguidi, The Missing Link. Dicolonisation Education by Mrs Smiling Stone, 2017, various materials, installation view, Neue Galerie, Kassel, documenta 14, photo: Mathias Völzke

Somewhere in London, October 2016: The Queen was having friends over for dinner. The selected host of a welcoming house, she stood by the door, greeting each of her guests. The Queen loved rituals. She would create one for every occasion. That night she was dressed in a magnificent Japanese blue gown, which she decided everyone should try on. A speech that sounded like a prayer followed. It spoke about love, life, earth, memories, and futures. Then, everybody sat, ate, and danced.

Dakar, May 2014: In a small restaurant by the sea, not far from the little port that took people to Gorée Island, Senegal, near where the Queen was born in 1965, she was reading her friends’ minds. Without mistake, she would tell them about their lives and those things they thought no one else knew. Everyone was looking at her, half frightened, half charmed. The tone of her voice was natural, and the words came in an easy flow. She did not seem to be in a trance or in communication with any God. All that came was indeed coming from her. Deep down. From an ageless memory she uses to create the forms that, later, other people would call art.

Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, March 2014: The Queen was attending an opening with her family: mother, aunts, cousins … she was radiant. She introduced me to her crowd, and they all seemed to be floating in the air, between Heaven and Hell. I don’t know if they were able to understand the ten-meter-long painting that was exhibited the way I did or even the way the artist intended, but it didn’t matter.

There is no need to try to discuss Pélagie Gbaguidi’s work; it is all perception and senses. Words become useless. Everything is processed through her body beyond reason. Gbaguidi offers us secrets that, in every initiation, are ready to confront. In her art she asks us about ourselves, in the form of a riddle about our origins or about our future. By doing so, she insists on one single but crucial element: that what we have in common, what we have to share and cherish, would be totally in vain if it did not aim to transform us into better beings.

Spring/Summer 2017: The Queen shows in Athens and Kassel.

—Simon Njami

Posted in Public Exhibition
Excerpted from the documenta 14: Daybook

Black Athena Reloaded 2: A Trial of the Code Noir

with Colin Dayan, Pélagie Gbaguidi, Tavia Nyong’o, David Scott, and Françoise Vergès

Books are material surfaces of inscription where political fictions have the opportunity to become collective reality. The Code Noir was an economic and legal decree passed by King Louis XIV in 1685 to…