SILENCING THE CONSCIENCE: SADIKOU OUKPEDJO
By Nii B. Andrews.
The centaur is an engaging symbol.
Whether the centaur existed anywhere in history is a controversial question. There are numerous myths and legends where it is portrayed.
It is useful to always remember the aphorism of Confucius (551 – 47 BC) : ‘Signs and symbols rule the world, not words nor laws.’
The brooding pastel and acrylic paintings of the Togolese artist, Sadikou Oukpedjo feature half human and half animal forms – hybrids.
Just like the centaur, these hybrids reference the physical and spiritual duality of man and their eternal struggle for supremacy.
But the sages tell us that the power of speech is what differentiates man from the rest of the animals.
Flowing from speech comes action. What then happens when we refuse to speak even when the divine spark of conscience dictates that we should?
The resounding silence is scary; the sound of silence becomes the new noise.
It morphs into “the contagion of an inner silence; silencing what should be said to others, but first to oneself”.
Certainly, to put that down to Prudence is to seriously misunderstand that virtue; there is never a wrong time to do the right thing. And no right time to do the wrong thing.
Silencing the conscience gravely reduces the stature of man; he dies more than a little; he becomes more animal like.
This becomes even more pernicious when the rewards for silence include petrol coupons, public land or high falutin’ titles – who said Honorable, Your Excellency…..or……aaah, never mind.
In one painting, the centaur presents flowers; the gesture is loaded with meaning at several levels.
Oukpedjo’s contorted and provocative images are emphatic references to the pathetic reality of individual human life and its distorted ethos which needs to be struggled against so as to recalibrate it towards the shaping of a new and better identity.
The ghost like nature of his figures set within a swirling misty background suggests to us that the final result is not yet a foregone conclusion.
And of course there is the lingering question of whether animals have emotions – love, trust, fear.
In Abidjan, Dakar and Paris – Oukpedjo is represented by the Galerie Cécile Fakhoury; in Barcelona by the Out of Africa Gallery.
He currently lives and works in Abidjan.
Francis Coraboeuf – the curator, has observed the following about Oukpedjo, “In terms of discourse too, his message is increasingly strong and universal and when he speaks in this way of the human condition, of the suffering that man can inflict on man, I believe that many are touched in themselves…..he is an intense creator, he devours the world.”