Pélagie Gbaguidi Biography

Gbaguidi calls herself a contemporary 'griot', someone who functions as an intermediary between the individual memory and the ancestral past. Her work is an anthology of the signs and traces of trauma, and is centre'd on colonial and postcolonial history. She draws attention to the way in which legacies of oppression are circumvented in official histories–and thus preserved. She aims to reveal the process of forgetting by recontextualizing archives and histories. Her works are not direct representations of a traumatic past, but transmit embodied knowledge. Her paintings and drawings have a performative character and she often uses parts of her body to apply paint or pigment to the canvas. The images created by Gbaguidi through painting, drawing, performance or installation attempt to break out of binary thinking, archetypes and simplifications.

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In 2017 she participated in Documenta 14 in Kassel with her installation The Missing Link Dicolonisation Education by Mrs. Smiling Stone. The installation consisted of school desks, photographs and drawings on long scrolls hanging from the ceiling. The notebooks on the desks were the result of a workshop that Gbaguidi held over the course of Documenta with pupils from a local school. The installation proposes education and knowledge transmission as the antidote to collective amnesia.

For her important series 'Naked Writings' she has investigated the archives of the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren. Returning week after week, Gbaguidi sat across the photographs and documents serving as witnesses to the unimaginable colonial violence that took place in Congo. She created her drawings on the spot, as she strongly believes in creation and imagination as a regenerative power. The title 'Naked Writings' refers to the importance of un-learning, of shedding prior beliefs and consequently decolonizing the mind.

100 drawings of her series 'Code Noir' were acquired by the Mémorial ACTe in Guadeloupe, a center dedicated to the Memorial and History of Slavery Trade.

Pélagie Gbaguidi has participated in several international exhibitions such as the Berlin Biennial in 2020, Documenta 14 in 2017, the Lubumbashi Biennial in 2019 and the Biennial of Dakar in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2014 and 2018. Her work has also been on view at WIELS in Brussels, Musée Rochechouart, Stadtmuseum in Munich, MMK in Frankfurt, the National Museum of African Art - Smithsonian Institution, Washington, amongst others.

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