Jean-Baptiste Djeka was born in in Bouaké, the second largest city in Côte d’Ivoire in 1981. In 2003 he earned a technical diploma in Applied Arts from the School of Applied Arts of Bingerville, Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). He is a painter, sculptor and photographer. In 2009 he won the Grand Prix Guy Nairay of Photography Award organized by the Houkani Guyzan Gallery.
My work focuses on esoteric, African heritage. I want the observer to ponder the spiritual and historical dimensions of my paintings. I pay tribute to my ancestors (“because we are the present people of a past generation”), but I also want to challenge people’s concept of Ivorian art.
Djeka took his first steps as painter with renowned artists, such as Augustin Kassi, Diomande and Fadairo. For Djeka each canvas is a permanent reflection, a new challenge for the spectator to lose him/herself in the symbolic system on the meaning of the work. This interrogation is owed to the fact that Djeka makes use of all techniques (acrylic resin, oil, natural pigment, collage) to realize his creations that he draws from the Akan Waoulé (Baoulé) to bridge the cultures. In his own words « any culture, whatever the origin, native, foreign or extraterrestrial, belongs to everyone as soon as it sets foot on earth.»
Through his works, Djeka represents and speaks of the transformation of culture based on its origin, which is the quest of every human being. He relies heavily on the African esoteric inheritance, ancestors, symbols, and masks to express himself.
Painter and sculptor, Djeka uses a pasting and casting practice with ease that makes it possible for him to create movement and tension in his paintings. He participates in many local exhibits and shows in galleries on the African continent.
excerpt from: Cara Waterfall for the Matador Network, 2012 – Art as reconciliation in Côte d’Ivoire
One of Thierry’s emerging artists is Djeka Kouadio Jean-Baptiste, who exhibits regularly at Galerie Lelab and was Aboudia’s assistant for the art workshop this February. Like Yubah, Djeka works out of his home in Bingerville.
The thirty-year-old painter was born in Bouaké, the second largest city in Côte d’Ivoire. He has a strong connection to his Ivorian heritage and laments the fact that his ancestors are “intellectuals who have been forgotten.” In his compositions, he draws out symbols of three-dimensional objects like masks, statues, figurines, and scales for weighing Akan gold.
Djeka has distinguished himself as an artist by using an impasto technique to represent the links between people, their cultural values, and the universe. The technique is called “couler,” where he lets several colors flow together on his canvas. His brushstrokes create movement and tension in his paintings. The thickness of the paint and his use of geometric symbols and patterns make the paintings appear three-dimensional. He sometimes layers images over newsprint — a technique also used by Aboudia. He re-imagines traditional images and uses modern techniques to translate them to his canvas.
Djeka said that he focuses on esoteric, African heritage in his artwork. He wants the observer to ponder the spiritual and historical dimensions of his paintings. He pays tribute to his ancestors (“because we are the present people of a past generation”), but also wants to challenge their concept of Ivorian art.
Djeka remained in Abidjan and painted during the conflict. Like Yubah, he worked continuously out of his studio at home in Bingerville. He does not deny that the conflict influenced his work, but it is not specific to last year’s civil war.
“What theme is more confrontational [than the African heritage] between us?” he asked. “Since my first steps into the arts, conflict is a daily word…especially when we want to [herald the return] of culture in Africa and especially [in Côte d’Ivoire].”
Djeka told me that he has his feet in tradition, but his head in modernism.
Exhibitions at ODA
the diversity of a continent,
group exhibition, May 2018