New series on the children of Abobo train station
The civil war in pictures
"I could hear the bullets zipping through the air as I painted"
I wouldn’t call myself a war painter, but when the fighting got really bad in Abidjan I felt compelled to convey what I saw in my paintings. My work was similar to that of a journalist writing an article: I was simply describing a situation, in order to create a record of my country’s recent history. If it can help people remember what happened these past months, that’s good, but above all I painted these works for myself.
"My role is to observe and paint. If I can’t do that, then I’m lost"
This painting is the first in a series I made. It came at the very start of the unrest. Its title, “Election Poison”, meant that the loser should have accepted his defeat fairly. I don’t support any specific party, and I did my best to keep out of the conflict. Throughout the crisis, I went outdoors with a white band on my wrist to stress the point that I was an apolitical civilian. That’s why I didn’t paint any politician’s names on the canvases, because everyone has his share of responsibility in the conflict. My role is to observe and paint. If I can’t do that, then I’m lost.
I particularly like this painting because its colours are very joyful, despite the colours of the crisis it depicts. During the months of conflict, there were some positive moments, like when UN patrols came to ask us if we had enough food or whether we wanted to be evacuated. It was a heart-warming relief to most people to know that we weren’t abandoned, and I wanted to express that in my painting. In the background, you can see houses covered in bullet marks. It looks like they are crying.