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Press Release 14 September 2013


Rafiy (Benin – painting) &

terracottas, masks and statues of West and Central Africa Sitges (Barcelona) from 14th September to 3rd November 2013

Galería Out of Africa - Carrer Major, 7 - Carrer Nou - 08870 Sitges (Barcelona) - España - Tel: +34 618 356 351


Currently riding a wave of success, the Out of Africa gallery has carved itself an exclusive high quality niche since its launch on the 1st of June in Sitges (Barcelona), thanks largely to its presentation of Africa’s best contemporary artists alongside a collection of tribal art and traditional objects with provenance from different West and Central African ethnicities. These pieces have been carefully collected throughout numerous trips to the heart of Africa’s most remote ethnic villages. Inauguration of the Out of Africa gallery in Sitges: A unique contemporary and tribal art space 35km to the south of Barcelona.

Having exposed the work of painters Larry Otoo and Kobina Nyarko(Ghana) through the summer of 2013 alongside the recycled works of Burkina artists Hamed Ouattara, Xavier Sayago, Sahab Koanda and Sambo Boly, the Out of Africa Gallery opens an exhibition in September entitled “Insights”. The painter Rafiy (Benin) will exhibit his new printed canvases: in his work intense looks and stares pierce out from his thoughts and brush strokes.

100m2 of gallery space in the historic centre of Sitges putting contemporary and tribal African art in perspective.


Demonstrating that tribal art and modern African art can sit quite comfortably in a modern interior space, the Out of Africa Gallery has selected for the month of September around 30 masks, statuettes and original fired earth pieces whose piercing looks bear witness to the power of contact with gods, ancestors and other spirits from the beyond in ritual celebration.

Rafiy (Bénin), a glance at the world.

Rafiy – Cotonou – Benin - 1979 – Painter

Rafiy finishing a canvas for the Out of Africa gallery.

Rafiy Okefolahan was born on the 7th of January 1979 in Porto Novo(Benin). He lives between Cotonou in Bénin, Paris, Brussels and Barcelona. Having trained in 2007 at the National Arts school in Dakar, he took part in “Rencontres professionelles en art contemporain” in Ouidah,Bénin. In 2009, he was one of 5 artists from Nudowa Yoyo chosen to exhibit in a collective exhibition in the French cultural centre of Cotonou. In 2010 the French institute of Paris granted him a studio space in the “Cite Internationale des Arts” in Paris. In 2011, the Lazarew gallery in Paris and Brussels exhibited him and he took part in a collective show at the invitation of Charley Case at the “Triangle Bleu” gallery in Stavelot , Belgium and the “L&deco” gallery in Paris. In 2012, he exhibited for the first time in Spain at the request of the Out of Africa gallery in Benasque(Huesca) and in Paris at the Kaertner gallery. That same year he was one of 14 artists to be offered a video art residence at “Art Bakery”, the contemporary art centre created by Goddy Leye, dedicated exponent of Cameroun’s experimental art. Ever immersed in the artistic life of his own Benin, in 2010 he organised the “First Open Doors” with his association Elowa, involving 45 plastic art studios, and in 2012 with the same association he organized “L’un dans l’autre”, a residence exchange with the Belleville artists association in Paris to get 20 Benin and French artists working together. 3

Rafiy (Bénin), a look at man His restless style captures the world’s movement and articulates his work around human beings caught in the trap of history, snared in everyday life and their own existence. He never paints alone; he works within the noise of the street, surrounded by market sellers, friends in the passages and televised news.

Rafiy – La Feria des Taureaux – 2013 – 120cm H x 120cm W – Mixed media.

Whether standing up or on his knees above the white nakedness of the canvass, he’s poised to leap, ready to integrate anything that comes his way. He uses glue and acrylic, he paints, scrapes, uses coffee stains and rust, he draws, writes words and numbers in charcoal, in pen, in pencil and with pastels. Thus adorned, the canvas oozes sensuality from these media giving it body and stark, defined colour. He draws portraits of souls, of faces: sources of right but also wrong. He transcribes telephone numbers and Christian names written up in chalk on shop doors and windows. These numbers lead him to reflect on identity, on urban space and on society’s mutations. The process can sometimes be slow and so, propped in a corner, the canvass will wait to be taken up again and tweaked. Rafiy tells us of fact, of experience, of opinions, a state of mind from which a fantasy world of creatures bursts out.

Rafiy – Les Présidentiables - 2012 – 90cm H x 188cm W – Mixed media.


Tribal art, another view. To approach tribal art solely from an aesthetic angle is to deprive it of most of its meaning and its human significance. To really feel the beauty of a piece of work, you must understand its “raison d’etre”, its objective and the mythical meaning it holds for the person who created it and the people who used it for traditional ritualistic ceremonies. If, on the other hand, we favour ethnology on the basis of aesthetics, we rob it of its beauty, its pure form and its visual impact. We mustn’t forget that under the outer aesthetic shell of all tribal art there is nearly always a philosophical dimension: these objects are aids to rites or traditional celebration. Their main function is centred on ancestral or mythical cults: bringing core myths back to life, perpetuating the memory of ancestors, acting positively on supernatural forces or on emanations from the beyond. On the other hand these ritual objects insure cohesion and social hierarchy, as well as respect for sacred places and the preventing of unacceptable behaviour within the group. Nok head – Nigeria – 26cm H x 18cm W x 19cm P – Terracotta 2.000years old, certificate of thermoluminescence.

Man has always striven to transcend the limits of his five senses by crossing the threshold of the supernatural. So, throughout history, men have conjured up and made intermediaries. Nearly all of Africa is familiar with and uses masks and statues for traditional, ritual celebration. The ritual mask and statue appears to be the symbolic expression of certain aspects of the supernatural. It allows safe passage to the transcendental. Tribal art is inextricably linked to music, rhythm, dance, song, sacrifice and all of their rituals. 5

Facial features give specific meaning to the look of a face: a look from two squinted eyes evokes an expression of spiritual possession while prominent facial traits with open eyes are found on masks and statues whose aim to scare. Before use, masks and statues must be consecrated by initiated priests so they are apt to receive the spirit or god they represent, thus taking on sacred value. The aim of ritual celebrations is not purely for enjoyment though it’s fair to say that onlookers get emotionally stirred when watching the masks in a dance. These gatherings are also about bonding within the community. There are also ritual objects found in villages that even people from outside the community can see. This is the case with alters. The family alter, set up opposite the house entrance, is thought to protect the family enclosure against evil spirits.

Hook nose mask – Dan/Mahou – Liberia – 62cm H x 21cm W x 26cm P Wood, fibres and nails - +/- 60 years old


Thanks to the oral nature of most African cultures, history is often cast in myths, given strength by the masks and statues which bring them to life. A mask worn by a dancer, whose identity is hidden, becomes the manifestation of a spirit, a rare supernatural creature, intervening in the group’s social life.

When the mask wearer appears in his fibrous or leafy costume, he isn’t just trying to disguise himself, or make himself more beautiful to the audience. He hides behind an image lain down by the myth. The masked man isn’t trying to pass himself off as a god or a divine spirit. It’s the god or spirit that possesses him and acts through him. “For Africans, everything is a sign or holds meaning, so that all is symbolic” Leopold Sedar Senghor.

More information Sorella Acosta +34 618 356 351 facebook : Galeria Out of Africa Lobi statue – Burkina Faso – 25cm H x 7cm W x 6cm P – Wood +/- 100year old


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