La Bouche du Roi:
an artwork by Romuald Hazoumé
22 March – 13 May 2007
Part of the Atlantic Trade and Identity season
A warning against human greed, exploitation and enslavement, made from materials including petrol cans, spices, and audio and video elements.
La Bouche du Roi was created between 1997 and 2005 by Romuald Hazoumé, an artist from the Republic of Bénin, West Africa.
Literally translated as ‘The Mouth of the King’, the title refers to a place in Bénin from where many thousands of slaves were transported to the Americas and the Caribbean. However, La Bouche du Roi is primarily a warning against all kinds of human greed, exploitation and enslavement, both historical and contemporary.
A profound and thought-provoking artistic statement, it is made from a combination of materials, including petrol cans, spices, and audio and visual elements. The artwork’s arrangement recalls the famous 18th-century print of the slave ship, the Brookes, which was used to great effect by Abolitionists.
A recitation of Yoruba, Mahi and Wémé names, the terrible sounds and smells of a slave ship, and a video of black market petrol-runners in modern Bénin are other elements which combine to make La Bouche du Roi a truly remarkable and thought-provoking work of art in which the connections between past, present and future are made profoundly real.
La Bouche du Roi, by Romuald Hazoumé. Photo: Benedict Johnson.