Keren Lasme went to Grand Bassam to portray ‘Les Bronziers’. This series pays tribute to the craftsmen who carry the legacy of the art of bronze casting in Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire. ‘Les Bronziers’ as we call them come from generations of metalworkers and are still using the lost wax casting method dating back to the 10th century.
They played such an important role in the social-economical development of Bassam in the 70’s and 80’s yet today the government is not investing in their practice. Their working environment is as not safe and not always conducive to productivity. Recurrent electricity shortage and rain can force them to stop working. In addition, lack of financial resources prevent them from buying machineries that will allow them to develop and improve their practice.
“Despite all these factors, the craftsmen are still using their talent to create decorative and functional artworks which are exhibited in their art gallery. They also work in collaboration with businesses and artists who still consider bronze as an important element of Côte d’Ivoire material cultures. Amongst these people are young Ivorian creatives like myself who work with ‘Les Bronziers’ to bring our ideas to life and create new aesthetic language with this craft.” - Keren Lasme
This year’s theme for Vlisco&co’s Côte d’Ivoire project was constructed around the modernisation of the traditional Ivorian bronze industry. Ivorian bronze sculptures and figurines have many elements of nature in them, and often speak of a tribe’s spirituality.
In Ivory Coast, The Senufo and Akan tribe are the main tribes that use bronze for their ornaments, and the Senufo are animists, which is the belief that objects, places and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence. The Akan tribe used bronze gold weights depicting humans (eg. warriors, medicine-men, hunters), animals (eg. birds, crocodiles, antelopes), flora (eg. peanuts, oil palm flowers, calabashes), artefacts (eg.drums, sandals, cannons) and numerous other figurative and geometric motifs.
Ngadi based the patterns in her designs around these themes, sometimes directly incorporating traditional elements into them. You can see a heavy inspiration from the elements of nature (always related to Ivorian bronze figurines) in them. Ngadi has decided that she would focus on the choice of colour in order to give the patterns a modern twist. She wanted to use bright, pop colours, such as the ones in Takashi Murakami’s works in print. Ngadi wanted it to be busy, and for the elements to look almost like a graphical print just like Murakami’s work.
The outcome certainly looks different in comparison to Murakami’s work because all the elements are coming from Ivorian symbols in bronze. All in all, Ngadi wanted the print to be a unique, fresh and modern way of displaying the ideas behind traditional African bronze casting.