Africa with ‘Cosmogenie’ in the Cobra Museum

‘I have been invited,’ replied Marie-Cécile Zinsou when asked how the art collection managed by her foundation ended up at the Cobra Museum. It comes from Benin and can be seen at the Cobra Museum of Modern Art until January 8. Well, some of it, she explains. Because the collection is much larger than the 130 works of art that came to the museum. The exhibition is called ‘Cosmogenie. Zinsou, an African art collection’. So by invitation, but the core values ​​are reminiscent of the Cobra movement. The museum now commemorates that he was born 75 years ago (November 8, 1948).

These core values ​​include spontaneity, the cross-pollination of different art forms, and the conclusion that there is indeed an artist in every human being. Cobra has always been interested in non-European and non-academic art, notes director Stefan van Raay of the Cobra Museum of Modern Art. With that spearhead in Cobra’s philosophy, it actually also houses the exhibition of African art.


Cobra painters at the time were fascinated by what their counterparts in Africa were doing. But the Africans come from many more countries than the Cobra group at the time, which actually only consisted of Dutch, Danish and Belgian artists. The exhibition shows works by artists in South Africa. Benin. Congo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali. Nigeria, Madagascar, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Senegal, Tanzania and Algeria. So a complete art collection from Africa, where there are 54 countries and, unlike the Cobra era, have their own artistic infrastructure, says Van Raay. From France, Pauline Guerrier joined them. Fascinated by the works of the Nigerian photographer JD Okhai Ojeikere (1930-2014), also represented at the exhibition, she now creates hairstyles (seen from the back) as pictures, for which she uses leftover materials from hairdressers.

The exhibition of African art is actually an expression of the cultural collective on Stadsplein, where, for example, Cinema Amstelveen, P60, library and bookstore Libris Venstra provide support. But also outside Amstelveen you will find collaboration partners, such as the Dutch Embassy in Benin (where the dance group Walô is also based today), De Balie in Amsterdam, Afrovibes Festival and Black Achievement Month. And the municipality, Vriendenloterij, Cobra Founders and Cobra Business Club also supported.


The title ‘Cosmogony’ refers to the doctrine of creation and the cosmos and is elaborated in the exhibition in various themes that can also be seen in the exhibition. These themes are: Alphabet and codes, Identity and memory, life as it comes, Attitude and staging, Critical reflection, Mythology and symbols and Metamorphoses. You can see photos, paintings, sculptures and installations by a total of 37 artists. Incidentally, they are also established in France, the country that was a colonial power in several African countries.

Founder Marie-Cécile Zinsou of the foundation named after her says she wants African countries to be actively involved in the creation of their own art and exhibit it to a local audience. But on the world stage, the artistic creations are becoming more and more visible. There is a new generation of artists who manage to find a synthesis between tradition and globalization. In addition to established names such as Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Romuald Hazoumè and Chéri Samba, the exhibition offers names of young artists who create an image of the modern influences that shape modern African art. The exhibition has previously been shown in Montpellier. The Cobra Museum welcomes this treasure trove of contemporary art, so that the Dutch public also has the opportunity to come into contact with the creativity of the African continent. We follow the example of the Cobra artists in their fascination with African cultures and hope to raise awareness of the existence of a vibrant contemporary art scene.

Leave a Comment