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Julien Sinzogan

Artist 86

Julien Sinzogan

Spiritual Return


Julien Sinzogan (born 1957) is a contemporary Benin painter and graphic artist whose work actively engages the impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade on his native Benin, one of the largest slave-trading posts of West Africa.

Having lived and worked in Paris, France for nearly thirty years, he has recently returned to Benin. He has exhibited widely throughout Europe and Africa.

Sinzogan's techniques and references move from areas of monochrome pen and ink into glimpses of full-color scenes.

Julien Sinzogan is inspired by the Yoruba Divinatory and Ifá. In this he explores the journeys between the tangible world of Aye as well as the departure to the spirit world Orun and are then reborn, and portrays how closely they are related.

Sinzogan also has two parallel themes seen this work: belief in the transmigration of African “soul” and the return of the spirits of slaves to African shores; “real crime” of slavery was in the loss of protective ancestral spirits of the communities that remained in Africa.

Sinzogan's technique reflects the interaction between the different worlds such as the ‘Western’ world, in which Sinzogan's use of symbolism evolves according to well-defined traditions and the African world and the rich sculptural history of Benin Art.

Symbolism is very important to Sinzogan as he describes it “…the symbol has a amplitude immeasurable and opens the imagination by wearing colors and philosophies of life.”

A trademark symbol of Sinzogan's is the portrayal of complex realities with a black circular symbol signifying remembrance of the dead, and by those still living.

Sinzogan’s work investigates the passages between these different realms of existence. The voyages between such realms lie at the heart of religious practice across much of the Atlantic world, a world forever shaped by that other historical voyage – the“middle passage”of the Atlantic slave trade.

Sinzogan’s faith in the migration of the African soul and the homecoming of the slave’s spirits who journey back to West Africa, returning from their exile following the transatlantic slave trade, speaks of the greatest violation: the broken thread of ancestry and the loss of ancestral spirits who departed to the Americas.

Sinzogan exploration of the theme of the Trans-Atlantic slavery and the spiritual return of long-lost African souls to their homeland is a heart breaking journey filled with hope of peace for those lost in the horror of Colonialism. His creations make bold statement on spirituality and the indestructibility of the African soul.


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