Emmanuel Daydé, The African nights of Abderrahim Yamou

In the exhibition catalog “Moroccan Suites”, June 1999, Paris

At first, a sensation of matter emanates from these abstract paintings: a thick layer of earth or brown sand covers the surface of the painting, which is then pounded as though sculpted. And then, little by little, a finer, freer pictorial substance emerges and figures come into viewt.

“The Night Landscapes”, although figurative, are treated as abstract paintings coloured in ochres ranging from brown to black, in which leaves and branches appear in calligraphic style. Plants and writing are present here as primal forms and forces, emerging from the primordial African night.

Similarly, Yamou’s sculpture acts as a kind of receptacle of form and life. It is deeply inspired by traditional African art, in particular, by the N’Kondé statues of the Congo. The artist is fascinated by the process of creation and social interaction that the N’kondé statues represent. Indeed, the N’kondé statues are cut directly out of the wood by the sculptor, they are then consecrated by a priest through anointment, first with a mixture of blood, resins and vegetable deposits and then with nails.
Consequently, the sculpture becomes the guardian of a social, moral, conjugal and spiritual contract, symbolized by the dozens of metal blades or nails that are planted in the statue: through these incisions, the statue becomes a preserver of oaths.

In connection with the “Night Landscapes”, Yamou proposes a large sculpture entitled “Biological Clockwork”: composed of 12 units made of wood, coated with tar, and entirely covered with nails, this ‘clockwork’, which is placed in a circle, contains at the top of each unit a living plant known as helxine.

The dual presence of metal nails and green plants in Yamou’s three-dimensional works mirrors the dynamics of the Congolese statues. “The plant is continuity and change; it demands interaction. It is also photosynthesis; it brings life. The nail, the metal is also continuity and change. It rusts, it carries within itself oxidation, deterioration, death.” Yamou’s work, in bringing us closer to the archaic world of form, reveals the universal logic of life.