For a few months now the visual artist Mathka Paris has been exhibited in the lobby of the Grand Hotel du Niger, in Niamey. Blue, red, ochres… a bright palette, chosen as a signature, contrasts with this vast hall in which I finally enter to discover the work of the French-Nigerien artist. For this exhibition in the country where she grew up, Mathka Paris presents a series of acrylics on canvas, created between 2015 and 2019.
In between abstraction and surrealism, the artist transcends the Wodaabé culture of which she is the heir, to make us travel between dream and reality. In phantasmagorical settings, Fulani figures are in conversation. Women are omnipresent in the work of Mathka Paris. Singular headdress, make-up, scarification and adornment act as armour. Self-portrait or universal figure, with a contemplative gaze, a nomadic spirit, she remains fascinating and elusive.
And always this zebu. Companion of the people of breeders. This zebu looking at me from the four corners of the room. This emblematic and powerful figure, muse of the artist. From the top of his presence, silent, he watches, he protects, sometimes he hypnotizes. If the woman proudly wears her braids, he wears his horns. Unusual objects float in weightlessness. A cigarette burns insolently here and there. In the background, the horizon, these textures and landforms that bring depth to each painting, like an escape route, vanishing line or line of sight.
In the abstract works, volumes, curves and fine lines like threads intertwine. The golden tones dazzle, changing with the light like shifting dunes.
Beyond the warm colours, a part of darkness and enigma remain. Sharing daydreams, anxieties and fantasies, Mathka Paris takes our imagination beyond the frame. In a contemporary way, Mathka pays tribute to the traditional Fulani Wodaabe culture. If the installation could have presented the works in a better way, thanks to this exhibition, the characters born under other horizons, enriched by physical and inner journeys, return to their land, like shepherds after the transhumance… for the great pleasure of the people of Niamey !
Mathka Paris – Exhibition
Presented by le Grand Hôtel du Niger
Opening : Octobre 29, 2021
Visit Mathka Paris’ website here.