Romuald Hazoumè was born in 1962 in Porto Novo, in the Republic of Benin. Hazoumè’s work first came to prominence in the U.K. with the inclusion of his witty, tongue-in-cheek “masks” in the Saatchi Gallery’s Out of Africa show, in 1992. Since then his work has been widely shown in many of the major galleries and museums in Europe and beyond, including the British Museum, the Guggenheim, Bilbao, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, ICP, New York, the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
Winner in 2007, of the Arnold Bodé Prize (documenta 12, Kassel, Germany), the stellar trajectory of Hazoumé’s rise during these past fifteen years has catapulted him into the first rank of the international artistic community, marking him out as unique amongst other African contemporary artists.
His powerful exhibition Made in Porto-Novo, London, 2009, generated press interest from the BBC and The Financial Times. Prolific in a wide range of media, Hazoumè creates photographs, masks, canvases and installations.
In his photographs, slavery is the recurrent theme. Not the historical slavery of the dominant western power in search of cheap labour, but more modern equivalents. Hazoumè focuses upon the Beninese men forced to ferry contraband petrol between Nigerian sources and their Beninese consumers. Estimates suggest that 90% of all fuel used in Benin passes through these black-market channels known locally as Kpayo. His photographic series exposes an undercover system of gross exploitation. Whether confronting the legacy of the slave trade or creating witty portraits, his work documents the diversity of African life today.