Dominique Zinkpè was born in 1969 in Cotonou in the Republic of Benin. He is unarguably one of the most recognizable contemporary artists to emerge from his country. His strongly personal style and versatility as a painter and sculptor have secured him increasing international recognition.
Not much was known of Zinkpè until 1993 when he won the Prix Jeune Talent Africain (Young African Talent) Award at the Grapholie in Abidjan. More recognition came in 2002 at the Dakar Biennale when he received the West African Economic and Monetory Union (UEMOA) Prize for his installation Malgie Tout!(In Spite of Everything!).
Zinkpè channels his agitated mind through diverse media including painting, sculpture, installation and video. His early installations depict contorted, grotesque human forms created from thick tree roots, an improvisation for twine.
However, his intense paintings and drawings are more intimate and revealing, often denouncing injustice and hypocrisy. They mimic flow diagrams, at once explorations of the dilemma and complexities of the artist’s own life. Here, the strange hybrid beings – both man and animal engage in dance and evoke the transcendental power play and games of masquerade, sex and gender, deeply rooted in Benin culture. Nurturing, fertile women often appear in Zinkpè’s work, recalling themes of desire, giving birth, abortion or expectancy.
Zinkpè’s sculptures are no less arresting. Many of them consist of assemblages of carved wooden ibeji dolls that engage the Yoruba concept of twinship.
Overall, his broad oeuvre draws from the aesthetic currents of the past, underscoring the unresolved tensions arising from the fusion of Catholicism, Animism, and indigenous traditions with contemporary culture. To these sketches of human drama, the artist infuses elements of irony and satire.
Dominique Zinkpè has participated in numerous exhibitions, workshops and residencies in Africa, Europe and South America.