Armand Boua On His ‘Manawa’ Exhibition And His Future Plans

Photo Armand Boua Avril 2024

On May 18th, OOA Gallery in Sitges, Barcelona, opened the highly anticipated solo exhibition of Armand Boua, titled “Manawa.” Running until June 30th, this groundbreaking exhibition showcases Boua’s exceptional talent and offers a profound exploration of the lives of marginalized youth, colloquially known as “Manawa,” in Abidjan. Boua’s mixed-media artworks, which blend elements of figuration and abstraction, invite viewers to contemplate the struggles and resilience of these young individuals.

Africans Column had the privilege of sitting down with Armand Boua to discuss his latest exhibition, his artistic journey, and the powerful messages behind his work. Boua, who has received both domestic and international acclaim, shared insights into his creative process, the inspiration for the “Manawa” series, and his future projects. See below for the full interview.

print Armand Boua Aide Macon I 2024 107cm x 107cm Mixed media on canvas original
ARMAND BOUA Aide Maçon I, 2024 Mixed media on canvas 107cm x 107cm (42 1/10 × 42 1/10 inches)

Interview with Armand Boua

Africans Column: Can you share a bit about your background and what inspired you to pursue a career in art? How did your upbringing in Abidjan influence your artistic vision and themes?

Armand Boua: I received extensive artistic education at the Centre Technique des Arts Appliqués in Bingerville, the École des Beaux-Arts in Abidjan, and the Institut de Formation Sainte Marie d’Abidjan, where I studied computer science and graphic design. I also worked at UNIWAX in Côte d’Ivoire, creating patterns and designs for fabrics and clothes. From a young age, I loved drawing and depicted everything that interested me. Growing up in a religious family, this spiritual upbringing guided my work, making it educational and instructive. The theme of “Street Children” began at the École des Beaux-Arts, where I focused on it for my Artistic Diploma and thesis. After school, I continued exploring this theme, which has become a significant topic for me.

print Armand Boua Aide Macon II 2024 107cm x 107cm Mixed media on canvas original
ARMAND BOUA Aide Maçon II, 2024 Mixed media on canvas 107cm x 107cm (42 1/10 × 42 1/10 inches)

Africans Column: How has your journey as an artist evolved over the years, and what have been some significant milestones or turning points?

Armand Boua: My artistic career has evolved through determination and a desire to experiment with materials, collages, and different creative mediums. As an artist, I’ve always sought to learn from others and experiment, especially through exchanges, artist residencies, exhibitions, and encounters. The most significant milestones have been exhibitions, sharing my work, and meeting other artists and art enthusiasts.

print Armand Boua Aide Macon IV 2024 108cm x 108cm Mixed media on canvas original
ARMAND BOUA Aide Maçon IV, 2024 Mixed media on canvas 108cm x 108cm (42 1/2 × 42 1/2 inches)

Africans Column: What inspired the creation of the “Manawa” series, and what does the term “Manawa” mean to you personally in the context of this exhibition?

Armand Boua: The inspiration for the MANAWA series came from a conversation with a friend from Yopougon, where I grew up. After working on the Unseen series at the Montresso Art Fondation, I decided to highlight the odd jobs street children do to survive and proposed this idea to OOA Gallery. “MANAWA” is a Nouchi word (street language in Abidjan) meaning ‘maneuver.’ Personally, I am drawn to these street children who become MANAWA, working for a meager sum. This series reflects my perspective on these children, whom we call “les enfants de la rue” in Côte d’Ivoire.

print Armand Boua Le Djossi 2024 146cm H x 208cm W Mixed media on canvas original 1
ARMAND BOUA Le Djossi, 2024 Mixed media on canvas 146cm H × 208cm W (57 1/2 H × 81 9/10 W inches)

Africans Column: Your technique involves painting on cardboard, followed by scraping, tearing, and repainting. What led you to develop this unique method, and how do you select your materials? Can you describe how these techniques and materials contribute to conveying the message of your mixed-media artworks in the ‘Manawa’ exhibition?

Armand Boua: This technique emerged from hard work and a dissatisfaction with my previous artworks. I discovered this method when I wanted to destroy one of my creations. The materials I use are chosen based on inspiration rather than predefined criteria. The subject of street children led me to this technique. The cardboard and newspaper represent where these children sleep, while tar and other materials symbolize life on the streets. This technique effectively communicates their struggles and survival.

print Armand Boua Le Djossi III 2024 158cm H x 124cm W Mixed media on canvas Original 1
ARMAND BOUA Le Djossi III, 2024 Mixed media on canvas 158cm H x 124cm W (62 1/5 H × 48 4/5 W inches)

Africans Column: The ‘Manawa’ series focuses on the lives of marginalized youth in Abidjan. What message do you hope to convey to your audience through these artworks, and how do you balance the elements of figuration and abstraction to communicate their stories effectively?

Armand Boua: I want to convey that these marginalized young people, or street children, are fighting for survival, and not all of them are delinquents. We can and should help them. I invite viewers to engage with my work, piece together the missing parts, or step back to understand and appreciate the story. The combination of figuration and abstraction adds strength and relevance to the narrative.

print Armand Boua Manawa 1 2024 207cm H x 150cm W Mixed media on canvas original 1
ARMAND BOUA, Manawa I, 2024 Mixed media on canvas, 207cm H x 150cm W

Africans Column: How has the reception been for the ‘Manawa’ exhibition so far, and have there been any particularly memorable reactions or feedback? What impact do you hope your work will have on viewers?

Armand Boua: I hope my work resonates with exhibition visitors and that the message comes through clearly, leaving a lasting impression.

print Armand Boua Manawa II 2024 207cm H x 150cm W Mixed media on canvas original 1
ARMAND BOUA, Manawa II, 2024 Mixed media on canvas, 207cm H x 150cm W (81 1/2 H × 59 1/10 W inches

Africans Column: What are your plans for future projects? Are there any new themes or techniques you are interested in exploring?

Armand Boua: I plan to create a showroom and an artistic residency for young aspiring artists. For the future, I have many themes to develop and will explore new techniques, though they will not stray far from my current methods. I recognize that I may not always have the strength and energy for the intensive techniques I use now.

print Armand Boua Petit Abobolais 2024 109cm x 109cm Mixed media on canvas original 1
ARMAND BOUA Petit Abobolais, 2024 Mixed media on canvas 109cm x 109cm (42 9/10 × 42 9/10 inches)

Africans Column: What advice would you give to young, aspiring artists who wish to tell powerful stories through their art?

Armand Boua: I would tell them to have the courage to believe in what they do best.

Armand Boua’s “Manawa” exhibition at OOA Gallery offers a powerful and poignant look into the lives of marginalized youth in Abidjan. Through his innovative techniques and compelling narratives, Boua sheds light on the resilience and struggles of these young individuals, inviting viewers to engage deeply with their stories. Africans Column is grateful for the opportunity to delve into Boua’s artistic journey and the impactful messages of his work. We look forward to seeing how his future projects continue to inspire and challenge perceptions.

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