Camille Tété Azankpo: Artist Resume


Azankpo is a self-made man and a self-taught artist. He had to learn to fend for himself early in life, doing all kinds of jobs to make ends meet. He worked as a welder and metal worker, as a real estate agent - advertising homes for rent from posters on poles in the street, as a sign painter, and as a serigrapher.

His artistic career was launched in 1997 with Les Épouvantails des Champs (The Fields’ Scarecrows), a land art installation for which he mobilized the nearby youth. On more than 2.5 acres of rugged terrain north of Lomé, Azankpo erected life-size sculptures made with wood and recycled materials. The first of its kind in the subregion, it attracted visitors from beyond Togo’s borders.

Since then, Azankpo has established himself as an innovative mixed media artist whose trademark materials are the enamel basin and the metal box. On a layer of plywood, he assembles and stitches, with iron wire, pieces cut from these materials and carefully chosen for their motifs, themes, and colors.

The enamel basins were originally acquired by women or given to them for their aesthetic appeal and the symbolism of their motifs - fruit, fish, peacocks, hunters, political figures, flowers, tigers, symbolizing prosperity, luck, and individual or collective affinities. They were a critical part of their owners’ history – they carried dowries, bathed children, held food shared among families, and transported goods sold at the market. Their importance in women’s lives was similar to that of wax prints. Although made in China, India, Nigeria, Eastern Europe, or Spain, they became part of the national culture. Today, they’ve been replaced by plasticware. Azankpo’s seminal work with this material is a 10  x 72 ft long “curtain” built over seven years, and exhibited at the Benin Biennale and at the Ouidah Voodoo Festival in 2010. This incredible archival work, where so many motifs existing on metal basins can be found, represents the divides between people, divides that Azankpo bridges through his work.

In 2020, Azankpo started incorporating pieces cut from metal boxes in his work. Found in hardware stores or on the second-hand market, these come from all over the world. They held paint, solvent, or glue, chocolates, video games, crayons, baby powder, Nivaquine, or champagne… you name it! Some of these products are still being commercialized today, some have given way to more modern versions. The metal containers originate largely from multinational corporations, based in Asia, Europe, or America. Azankpo chooses them for their motifs, their symbolism, and the story they tell. The resulting artworks can be read like a book, each element a part of the narrative.

Bringing together these uniquely selected materials into complex works, Azankpo describes his art best: “Symbol of the past, the enamel basin contained lives; it was present in every household. Beyond its practical use and its aesthetics, it carried a personal or political message. The metal box reflects our current times, and what sustains us… food, medicine, entertainment. It mirrors our choices as consumers, choices which are dictated by our vulnerability to advertising. Both remind us of the disparities between rich and poor, and between high-income and low-income countries. They also remind us of the fact that  multinationals often manufacture and sell  their products in countries where the majority of the population cannot afford them. Basins and metal containers, coming from the far reaches of our world, are symbols of globalization and meet in my work to tell universal human stories, as well as convey my hope for a fairer and united society.” 

Azankpo’s artworks have layered meanings and chronicle the past, capture our present and comment on the future, but they also provide room for interpretation as the artist believes that each viewer will read his work and messages through their own lens. Driven by his reflections, his interaction with the material, and his search for perfection, Azankpo tirelessly innovates with each new series.

In spite of the covid-19 pandemic, Azankpo self-funded the construction of Espace Azankpo, an exhibition and residency space located one hour from the Togolese capital in the countryside. There, artists will have the opportunity to work in contact with nature. Azankpo is pouring all his energy and enthusiasm into this ongoing and ambitious project.

Exhibitions

Solo Exhibitions

2021
Galerie Agama, Toulouse, France
 2019
Galerie Agama, Toulouse, France
 2018
Galerie Agama, Marseille, France
 2017
Galerie Agama, Toulouse and Marseille, France
 2015
The Black VIP, Galerie AF, Lomé, Togo
 2011
Metal Work, Galerie AF, Lomé, Togo
 2010
The Black VIP, Centre culturel français, Cotonou, Benin
 2009
La Vache, Galerie 23, Amsterdam, Netherlands
 2007
Profils ou Faces, at Michel Aveline’s, Paris, France
 2006
L’Album du Soldat, Centre culturel français, Lomé, Togo
2004
Tout pour le Quotidien, Stadthalle, Osnabrück, Germany
 2001
Dans le Miroir de l’Autre, Deutsche Bank, Osnabrück, Germany
 2000
Sur les Traces de la Bassine Émaillée, Centre Culturel Français, Lomé, Togo
 

Collective Exhibitions

2021
Four by Nine, ARTCO, Aachen, Germany
2020
Three Borders, Palais de Lomé, Togo
2019
Inaugural Exhibit, African Art Beats Gallery, Washington, DC, USA
Lumières d’Afriques, Marrakech, Morocco
2018
Lumières d’Afriques, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Lumières d’Afriques, Eumestaat/Darmstadt, Germany
 2017
Cabinet de Curiosités of Michel Aveline, Lomé, Togo
Lumières d’Afriques, Palais des Nations, United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland
Lumières d’Afriques, Musée Théodore Monod, Dakar, Senegal
Ecole de Lomé, Galerie Agama, Marseille and Toulouse, France
2016
Lumières d’Afriques, Fondation Donwahi, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire
2015
Lumières d’Afriques, Théâtre National de Chaillot and Gare du Nord, Paris
 2014
Lomé-Dakar, Atelier Céramiques Almadies, Dakar, Senegal
Western Vodoun, sur la route des esclaves, by Galerie AF, Ouidah, Benin
 2012
Inventer le monde, The 2012 Cotonou Biennale, Benin
Galerie Frank Schlag and Cie, by ARTCO, Germany
 2011
Now look at me, Kulturkirche, Bremen, Germany
Afrikas Moderne, Museum Haus der Völker im Schwarz Tirol, Vienna, Austria
 2010
North Meets West, ARTCO, National Museum, Bamako, Mali
In and Out of Africa, Henn Art and ARTCO Gallery, Maastricht, Netherlands
 2009
Joburg Art Fair, ARTCO, Johannesburg, South Africa
La Mascarade and La Lettre Ouverte à Heinrich Böll, Leopold-Hoesch-Museum, Düren, Germany
 2008
La Mascarade, Foundation Heinrich-Böll, Berlin, Germany
 2002
Arte Global, by Gabriele Saure, Berlin, Germany
Art in Action, Alliance française, Accra, Ghana
 2001
Grands et jeunes d'aujourd'hui, Assemblée Nationale, Paris, France
La Féminité au Présent, Galerie Médoc, Bordeaux, France
 1999
Le Geste de la gestion, Galerie Zaka, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
 

Residencies

 2020 - Festival Libre Art, Nouakchott, Mauritanie
2017 - Le Centre, Cotonou, Bénin
2008/2009 - Heinrich Böll House, Langenbroich, Germany
 

Collections

 Leopold-Hoesch-Museum
Institut français du Togo
Blachère Foundation
Kindermann Collection
Gervanne & Matthias Leridon Collection

In the Media

Togo: Lomé, le musée à ciel ouvert de Camille Tété Azankpo, Jeune Afrique, November 2021

Azankpo's work was mentioned in Reinventing African Art Museums in Changing Times, a webinar held by 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair on July 8, 2020.