2022, fusain, graphite et encre sur papier médias mixtes / charcoal, graphite and ink on mixed media paper.
Collection Banque TD / TD Bank Collection

Ase presents a possible interpretation of History from the perspective of the vanquished and acts to restore the artist’s African ancestors’ agency. The enslaved were, and continue to be, often represented as benign participants in transatlantic slave trade in the 15th to 19th centuries. The Yoruba people, who live in present-day Nigeria, Benin, and Togo, establish that all humans are connected to each other, regardless of appearance, religion, or geographical location. This driving force is known as “Ashe” or “Ase” in the Yoruba belief system. It symbolizes life and is constantly changing. This drawing is a visual exploration of this force, in relation to the resilient spirit that enabled ten to twenty million Africans to survive one of the darkest episodes in the history of humanity.

Ase portrays a powerful wave emerging from the sea. The water extends from the stormy sky above to the lower edges of the sheet. There, the drawing leans into abstraction and reveals the blankness of the paper. This abstraction refers both to the hypothetical number of individuals of African descent lost at sea, as well as to the immateriality of their names and history.  The sea does not, however, refer to the physical separation between two worlds. Rather, it tells of the link which persists between the continents and through time, as per Édouard Glissant. In his writings, the sea binds Afro-descendant individuals living in different places to their common past and history. Furthermore, Ase’s creative process is also an act of remembrance. With each charcoal mark, the artist’s connection to his African ancestors is strengthened, as if the work was the medium through which the “Ase” takes shape.