Frédéric Bruly Bouabré

The work of Frédéric Bruly Bouabré (1923-2014, Ivory Coast) stems from a revealing experience that profoundly changed his life: on 11 March 1948, Bruly Bouabré became ‘Cheik Nadro’, literally ‘he who does not forget’, and embarked on a philosophical exploration of the state of Africa and the meaning of life. From that moment, Bruly Bouabré became interested in all fields of knowledge – art, poetry, tradition and legends, religion and philosophy – demonstrating his capacity as a great thinker, poet and scientist. From the 1970s, he worked on a daily basis on what would become known as Connaissance du monde, a work he continued working on until his death. On cards measuring 10x15cm, which he dated and initialled with a ballpoint pen and coloured pencils, Bruly Bouabré documented, codified and archived his knowledge, in particular relating to the Beté tribe to which he belonged. On each card Bruly Bouabré drew symbolic images surrounded by a textual border: he produced more than a thousand drawings. He also invented a new alphabet consisting of 448 monosyllabic pictograms, which he would allow to be spread among ‘European and African cultures to use amongst themselves’: an attempt to use this universal language to bring peace to the world.

Frédéric Bruly Bouabré was one of the artists included in the Ivory Coast Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale. His monographic and collective exhibitions include those held at the Contemporary African Art Fair, New York (2015), Pompidou Centre, Paris (2014) and Tate Modern, London (2010). His work was shown at Palazzo Grassi in the exhibition ‘The World Belongs to You’ (2011-12).