Hazoumè, Romuald b.1962  / Mon Gouvernement
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Hazoumè, Romuald b.1962  / Mon Gouvernement Hazoumè, Romuald b.1962  / Mon Gouvernement
about this work

Mon Gouvernement (1997) is a mixed-media installation comprising thirty individual flip-flop sandals that were washed ashore on the beaches of Benin. These stubbornly resistant pieces of marine debris, weathered by time and the elements, were collected by Hazoumè himself on beaches near his home in Porto Novo.
As with all of Hazoumè’s installations using recuperated materials, the artist’s intervention has been reduced to the barest of minimums. To complete this work, the sandal’s plastic thongs, if still attached, were removed to leave three open holes, before the resulting sole was cut through with a Stanley knife, to create an added flap of protruding material. To these thirty sandal soles, simply mounted using pairs of nails, nothing further needed to be added save the title, Mon Gouvernement, which in English translates as, My Government. It is the spectator’s mind that recombines these precious few essentials to reimagine the whole as a collection of individual human faces. Technically known as pareidolia, this subconscious process of perceiving facial characteristics in inanimate objects is a hard-wired human characteristic still surviving from ancestral necessities of instantly reacting to half-hidden faces amongst random visual stimuli. This inbuilt perceptual process of descrying faces in clouds or accidental splashes of colour was even described by da Vinci in his Notebooks. At speeds quicker than thought itself, with the protruding flap representing a ‘nose,’ the mind automatically imagines the surrounding holes as two eyes and a mouth, thus reconfiguring each bare sole to represent a complete human face. So deeply does this interpretive complex run that other random blemishes, variations in colour, size and shape, are further associated with other emotional cues or distinct moods discernible on the ‘faces’ that the spectator ‘sees.’
Hazoumè’s tongue-in-cheek conceit is that this accumulation of cut-out plastic shapes represents a true likeness to those august assemblies of ministers, politicians and other ‘representatives of the people’ whose decisions control the destinies of the rest of humanity, the mere ordinary mortals. Once the mind’s eye discovers one of the hidden ‘politicians’ mounted on the wall, the others quickly come into focus in a jumbled crowd of cartoon-like faces. The bathetic distance between this assemblage of worthless, laminated, old plastic footwear and the manner in which politicians wish to present themselves to their constituents as an august and serious assembly is the cleverly orchestrated point of the work. Once we discern the clownish face of any one ‘politician’ we cannot help but see – one after another - the motley crew of individuals that surround and support him/her. Since both left and right-footed sandals are present, this scurrilous arrangement cleverly mocks politicians of both left and right-wing parties as being nothing more than two-dimensional, interchangeable cut-outs with little save the odd superficial blemish that distinguishes any one from another.
Mon Gouvernement (1997) marks the first time that Hazoumè used recuperated sandals as a material in his work. A gap of nearly two decades followed before his more poignant use of them again, in 2016, in a series where each recovered sandal represented an individual migrant of African origin whose life was lost whilst attempting to cross the Mediterranean.

"Each flip-flop has its own character, personality and has been on its own journey. They were all salvaged from the shore of Benin; perhaps remnants of fishermen or refugees crossing over to Europe from Africa. We used this artwork as inspiration for many school workshops as well as the OG Youth Collective's 2016 exhibition entitled 'Lost and Found' in which we explored themes of identity, migration, and journeys all inspired by Hazoumè's exhibition 'All in the Same Boat,' October Gallery, 2016.'' - Georgie Fay, October Gallery's Head of Education

Romuald Hazoumè (b.1962 , Benin)

Mon Gouvernement , 1997

Rubber flip flops
90 x 122 cm.
35 7/16 x 48 1/16 in.
October Gallery, London, UK Current Location:
Switzerland - Basel - S Mixed Media Wall WorkAfrica

Artwork History
  • artist origin
  • provenance
  • current location
  • exhibitions
  • multiple

related works / Africa / Mixed Media Wall Work