It is an unfortunate truism that the best art is often born of conflict. It is also true that conflict is most always about resource yet unrealized; perceived unfulfilled potential, if you will. Aboudia’s paintings provoke a visceral impression of conflict at work. We are instinctively aghast at its dark, destructive ability, but also sense the ability of the spirit to emerge from it, bruised but burnished. It is not surprising that Aboudia came to prominence during the civil war of his home country Cote d’Ivoire – literally, the Coast of Ivory.

Aboudia Abdoulaye Diarrassoubawas born on 1983 in Cote d’Ivoire, and graduated from the School of Applied Arts in 2003 and the Institut des Arts in Abidjan in 2005. He set up his studio in the capital city of Abidjan, transforming onto canvas the life of the streets around him. His influences come from the graffiti of street kids, nouchi (the street slang and culture), and the hopes, realities, dreams and darkness of the children of the streets. His work first drew international acclaim in 2011, when he continued to capture the horrors of the streets during the Ivorian civil war from the basement of his studio, sometimes with bullets whizzing by in the oppressive air outside.

‘Djoly Du Mogoba’ (Diptych), 2011, Acrylic and mixed media on canvas, Jack Bell Gallery.

The artist now works from Abidjan and New York. Even as his style has developed to include a synthesis of American avant-garde traditions with the graffiti of the streets of Cote d’Ivoire, Aboudia’s themes have remained the same: the social conflict of inequality, the physical conflict of war, the intrinsic conflict between the potential and present circumstances of street children.

His canvases are huge (patterned after the walls of graffiti which are the basis of his work), his lines violent, his colours alternatively brooding or lurid. And always, the children. Ghoulish and ghastly, ghosts on a multi-layered background collage of oil, acrylic, crayon, fragments of newspaper clippings and magazine advertisements, street slang and weapons, comic strips and voodoo, soldiers and skulls and scratched surfaces….. the fabric of the society which constantly threatens to determine their fate and against which they are largely helpless.

“Enfants dans la Rue 3”, 2013, Acrylic, Mixed Media, Saatchi Gallery

And always, also – hope. Under Aboudia’s hand, chaos is transformed into coherence, death and destruction are brought to light, a prerequisite for life. In paintings such as “Special Etudes”, the children are placidly reading in their macabre environment, depicting the artist’s belief in education as the primary way out for children of the streets. Maybe, simultaneously, alluding also to the “special studies” and skills these children acquire from their environment for good or for ill?

“Special Etude”, 2012, Jack Bell Gallery

Aboudia haunts us. We cannot look away, neither from the paintings nor from the realities within our own communities. In Aboudia’s words, ‘our vision of the world is positive: of a world without war, without children on the streets, without children orphaned by war, without children mistreated, a world for children who are happy, joyful, educated and in good health’.

It clearly must be our vision too. Pure gold – or should we say Ivory? – realized.

Reve Urbaine”, 2017, Mixed media on canvas, Ethan Cohen Gallery
Street TV, 2016, Mixed media on canvas, Ethan Cohen Gallery


  1. Thanks for sharing….
    Am having breakfast at…….and looking out to outdoor Art exhibition, thinking how ordinary, then this!! Art must titillate . This certainly does.
    Thank you.

  2. We are neighbours they with ivory we with gold. .
    …….Pure ivory relished. ……

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