Agbodjelou, Leonce Raphael b.1965 / Untitled triptych (Demoiselles de Porto-Novo series)
about this work
Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou's series 'Demoiselles' delves deeper into his on-going portraiture project entitled 'Citizens of Porto Novo'. Using a daylight studio on location and shooting 6 x 9 medium format film, this new body of work focuses on the young female citizens of Agbodjelou's hometown. The grand old colonial house in these images has belonged to the artist's family for generations. It was built by Agbodjelou's grandfather - a merchant who made a fortune selling lemonade to the French and Portuguese armies. The mansion was constructed in 1890 by Afro-Brazilian artisans under colonial rule. Benin's Afro-Brazilian culture stems from the slave trade, a very important part of Benin's history during which over 12 million slaves left the country's ports. 

Today Porto-Novo feels like a city of the past, loaded with faded grandeur and dilapidated interiors. These Portuguese styled colonial buildings tell a visual narrative of Africa and its colonisation. Timeless in their construction, the 'Demoiselles de Porto Novo' images are both historic and modern. The girls are often bare breasted as traditional village life dictates, wearing ceremonial or Vodun masks. The interiors, with intricate carved woodwork and peeling paint, are alive with the ghosts of the past. Many of the images include old framed portraits of the artist's grandfather.

Agbodjelou's work functions on a deeply personal level as it raises questions about religious practice in West Africa, with specific regard for Porto Novo, its citizens, complex history and unknown future. 

Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou (b.1965, Porto-Novo, Benin)

Untitled triptych (Demoiselles de Porto-Novo series), 2012

2/5 +2 AP
Each: 150 x 100 cm.
Each: 59 1/16 x 39 3/8 in.
Jack Bell Gallery, London, UK Current Location:
Switzerland - Basel - S PhotographAfrica

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