COTONU: Famous Brazilian artist Edgar Bernardo Dos Santos (Ed Moon), sitting on a scaffolding, with spray paint in his hand, meticulously examines the work he has just done graffiti on a wall in Cotonou, the capital of Benin.
Against a blue-and-yellow background, he is retouching with a brush his image of a half-hemispherical statue of King Behanzin, one of 26 treasures looted by French colonial troops in the late 19th century and returned to Benin. at the end of 2021 after more than two years of negotiations between Paris and Cotonou.
Next to him, 25 other graffiti artists, including 15 from abroad, are waving bombs and brushes to tell the history and culture of Benin on this wall more than a kilometer along the port of Cotonou.
Their goal is to create the largest mural in the world as part of the Graff Effect festival, which has chosen the theme of “New Benin” for its eighth edition.
More than 700 meters of the wall have been painted since April 11, and organizers hope to expand it to 1,300 meters during the ninth edition, which will take place in early 2023. They hope to break the record for the longest graffiti mural in the world.
“To create Benin’s future, we need to keep Benin’s eye on the past,” explains Lawrence Jihuessi, named after artist Mr. Stone, a graffiti artist and festival promoter.
So many graffiti artists have decided to depict on this wall 26 restored treasures, presented in February for the first time in Benin as part of a historic exhibition at the Presidential Palace, located a few hundred meters.
“There the public goes in the direction of art, and here the art goes to the public,” explains graffiti artist Mr. Stone, who decided to pay tribute to the Amazons, elite corpses consisting exclusively of women from the Kingdom. Dahomey (one of the kingdoms that made up Benin before colonization).
Their warrior tunics can now be seen in an exhibition presented during the presidency, but Mr. Stone decided to depict the Amazon with a cape depicting the emblems of the kingdom of Dahomey.
“This is a continuation of the exhibition (under the presidency), and here we are betting on graffiti, which is a great vector of communication to reconnect us with our history,” adds the graffiti artist.
With this work, the artist wants to put a woman in Benin “at the center of action and development,” in his words, so that she “be the Amazon of today.”
But not only the royal history of Benin, painted on this mural, attracts dozens of passers-by.
This wall, supported by the Claudine Talon Foundation, Benin’s First Lady and the Ministry of Culture, also highlights recent achievements in this West African country.
Druzil Fagnibo, 32, is one of the few artists to take part in the festival. A raffia hat on her head, she bustles under the scorching sun to finish her work.
From cranes reminiscent of the reform of the port of Cotonou, the country’s economic heart, to agricultural machinery in connection with the modernization of the agricultural sector, or even resin roads, symbols of hundreds of kilometers of roads built, the main ones. Coupon.
After the first elections in 2015, the head of state, re-elected in 2021, has implemented dozens of large-scale projects aimed at putting the country on the path of development. This impressive modernization of the economy, as rapid as it was forced, was also accompanied by a significant democratic decline, according to the opposition, which is now almost nullified.
On his side of the wall, Druzil Fagnibo also represented the building of the Court for Combating Economic Crimes and Terrorism (Criet).
This special court, created in 2016 to end impunity among the political class, is perceived by its opponents as an armed hand of power. In particular, he sentenced the main opposition figures in Benin to very difficult terms of imprisonment, but the government denies any interference.