Boogie-Woogie: Pour la liberté
Spray paint and acrylic, 2021
In the summer of 2021, Obou Gbais was the first artist the Iwalewahaus welcomed as a guest after the long break of the lockdown. With a large mural in the courtyard, the painter and musician captured the upbeat atmosphere he encountered in Bayreuth. About 50 dancers are described on about 30 square metres. Some are depicted in joyful movement. Some appear pensive and look at the viewer with a pensive gaze. Again and again, legs and arms protrude from the throng of figures. It is a great celebration.
The unity of the crowd is emphasised by the staggered structure of the picture. Obou Gbais has refrained from foreshortening the perspective. In this way, all the figures appear to be the same size and are given the same amount of picture space. Another feature is the special depiction of the faces. Obou Gbais gives all the dancers the features of masks. Masks have a long tradition in Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia. Among others, they are worn by the Yakuba-Dan ethnic group during ritual dances.
Boogie-woogie is a musical style and a dance that has developed in the USA since the end of the 19th century. Originally it has its roots in the blues. It became widespread during the swing jazz era. Many boogie-woogie elements were adopted by new dance styles such as rock 'n roll. The origin of the word boogie refers to the African roots of the dance.
With the mural Boogie-Woogie: Pour la liberté, Obou Gbais has created a monument to the ideal of freedom. Of course, everyday life at the Iwalewa House does not consist only of cheerful and exhilarating celebrations. Obou Gbais' description is all the more apt, as it does not only consist of exuberance. Here, everyone can find themselves under a common motto: Pour la liberté.