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40 Under 40 Africa

Marie-Cécile Zinsou

28 September 2020

President, Fondation Zinsou, Cotonou and Ouidah

In 2005, Marie-Cécile Zinsou co-founded the Fondation Zinsou with her father, Lionel, an economist (and later prime minister of Benin). With an exhibition centre and six libraries in Cotonou, the foundation works to promote contemporary art from Benin and across West Africa; recent exhibitions have been dedicated to the Beninese sculptor Romuald Hazoumè and the Cameroonian photographer Samuel Fosso. In 2014 it was awarded the Praemium Imperiale grant for young artists, a mark of its robust international reputation. The previous year, the foundation opened the Museum of Contemporary Art in an Afro-Brazilian villa in Ouidah, a small city on the Beninese coast. Its permanent display features 13 artists from nine African countries; there are rooms dedicated to major post-war Beninese artists including Hazoumè and Cyprien Tokoudagba.

With a background in art history, Zinsou holds a firm belief in the power of art to connect Africans with their cultural heritage; as well as supporting the production of contemporary art, she has been a strong advocate for the restitution of artefacts taken from Benin and other countries in Africa during the colonial period. Zinsou is on the boards of the Institute of Islamic Culture in Paris, the Château de Versailles and the Maison Maria Casares, and, since 2014, has been a Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres. ­

Read Gabrielle Schwarz’s interview with Marie-Cécile Zinsou here

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