In 1948, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, a young Ivorian former colonial navy officer, living in Dakar, Senegal—then the capital of French west Africa—had a vision. The skies opened up, revealing seven suns dancing around a central star. Bouabré changed his name to Cheik Nadro, “the Revealer,” and dedicated his life to inventing a new writing system for his people, the Bété.
Bouabré is the first Ivorian artist to have his work showcased in a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, which will be on display through Aug. 13, 2022. The exhibit pays homage to Bouabré’s decades-long career, showcasing 11 series of drawings totaling more than 1,000 individual works, including his two best-known bodies of work, Alphabet Bété (1990-91) and Connaissance du monde (1987-2008.)
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