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VALENTIN DEGNIEAU
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Valentin Degnieau 
Ongoing project

Valentin joins the team at the Center in Benin for a production residency. He will collaborate with a screen printer based in Cotonou. He imagined a performative device in the urban space by staging the Zem motorcycle drivers. Each Zem driver will be asked to wear the screen-printed shirts. Valentin's work is a final photograph of this performance.

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Typology

Production residency

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Duration

4 weeks

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Destination

Cotonou

AAF Presentation

 

Co-production

Le Centre

3 years ago I went to Benin to discover a new culture, a new country. One of the great things I remember from this trip is a means of transport that has had a profound effect on me: Le Zémidjan. Thanks to them (and the taxi-brousses) I was able to criss-cross the country and discover it on a more human scale. Their yellow shirts made a lasting impression on my mind.

When reading the call for projects, many project ideas came to my mind, then my gaze fell on the Zem shirt that I own. I find what is an iconic object of Cotonou and by extension Benin, this yellow known by all.

Even more, a real screen printing work is organized around these shirts. We find proverbs and mantras on the backs of workers.

The zémidjians are symptomatic of a parallel economic system very present in Benin. However, they are strongly integrated into the economic development of the country and are used by companies and the political system in place to broadcast numerous advertising messages on their shirts.

With more than 160,000 active Zems throughout the country (a figure dating from2013), they represent a significant part of the population and are an essential cog in the smooth running of the country. A harsh and precarious job that brings together all types of profiles: students, mechanics, peasants, craftsmen, unemployed graduates, mechanics, peasants... They are the first to rise and the last to sleep, guardians of a specific trade specific to this territory which is theirs. I want to pay tribute to their daily work and their underestimated place.

My project is to carry out a photographic work around the Zémidjans and their daily life, their aesthetics, their work and their feelings. I then want to work with the help of a workshop or a craftsman practicing screen printing in Cotonou, in order to make ZEM shirts screen-printed with the four-color photographs taken during this residency. The restitution will take the form of a filmed event where zems will be invited to parade on their motorcycles with the shirts that will be given to them (event that will be filmed). A durable installation will also be created to allow everyone to discover the work.

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in partnership with 

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The center

A place of contemporary creation and dialogue, Le Center opened its doors in 2015 in the Lobozounkpa district of Abomey-Calavi. A hybrid artistic space with a museum, a library, residences, creative workshops, exhibition halls and a café, this place is a space for exchanges and sharing.

"Three years ago I went to Benin, to discover a new culture, a new country. One of the great things I remember from this trip is a means of transport that has had a profound effect on me: Le Zémidjan." 
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