Calixte Dakpogan - Spiritual metalworker

"All of my sculptures speak of my country, my culture, my surroundings and my beliefs, as well as of the entirety of my worldview"

Contemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

Oba (2007) by Calixte DakpoganContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

Calixte Dakpogan’s (born 1958, Pahou, Benin) Vodun heritage is intrinsic to his work. Born to a family of blacksmiths, he grew up in the Goukoumé district of Porto Novo, Benin, a district dedicated to Ogun, the god of iron.

Mama Binze (2009) by Calixte DakpoganContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

Ogun is the principal deity worshiped by the Dakpogan family, and the tradition of metalworking has been carried from father to son since their ancestor Sabgo Ayato worked as a blacksmith in the royal court of King Toffa.

Salesman (2006) by Calixte DakpoganContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

The abundance of car wreckages in Porto Novo has provided Calixte Dakpogan with an inexhaustible source of materials. (A symbol of power, the automobile is rightly placed under the protection of god Ogun.)

The Kitchen (2007) by Calixte DakpoganContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

Together with his brother Théodore, he began to use scavenged car parts to create standing figures, following directly in the tradition of Fon statues made from scrap iron in the early nineteenth century.

Ochoukpa (2007) by Calixte DakpoganContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

In 1992 the two brothers were commissioned to create a series 100 of these works for Ouidah 92: The First International Festival of Vodun Arts and Cultures, and their contribution remains on permanent display.

Mamiwata (Forced marriage 2) (2006) by Calixte DakpoganContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

Today, after an interval of one and a half centuries, the relationship between Fon sculptures and the work of Calixte Dakpogan transcends purely visual or technical aspects, being intimately related with the creative process.

Surveyor (2007) by Calixte DakpoganContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

Since 1990, Calixte has worked independently, using salvaged metallic and plastic elements to create anthropomorphic figures and masks. A gas tank becomes a body or headlights become teeth. Two formless segments become a recognizable personage.

Draftman (2008) by Calixte DakpoganContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

His creations, full of talent, humour, and stories, are imbued with a contemporary imagination and an astounding inventiveness.

Ambassadeur (2010) by Calixte DakpoganContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

The artist has commented: “I love children. They are very important in my work as they talk to me about what they see and make comments that inspire me profoundly. All of my sculptures speak of my country, my culture, my surroundings and my beliefs, as well as of the entirety of my worldview."

Hounsa (2007) by Calixte DakpoganContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

"I work with recovered materials since they are burdened with time and transformed by usage, conferring a degree of vitality upon my sculptures that I would be able to attain if I used new materials.”

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