Forgotten Faces: Tesprit

3 September - 21 October 2023

Tesprit (1994) is a multi-disciplinary artist. He lives and works in Lomé, Togo. Self-taught since childhood, the artist started his professional career in the early 2010s, working with drawing and painting. He has sculpted reused rubber since 2020. His work has been exhibited internationally – Benin, Ghana, Senegal, Togo, France, Italy – in group and solo exhibitions. In 2020 one of his works has been selected by Swatch for the project ‘Swatch x You’. 


For his first Belgian exhibition at ARTCO, Tesprit presents his latest series of works, made between 2022 and 2023. His artworks translate figuration into bas-reliefs, merging all at once painting and sculpture, ready-made and objet d’art. The artist invites the viewer to access a remote context, yet a place that affects us all: the dump. Made with the soles of used slippers, cut, and assembled on canvas, the works originate from the dumps of Lomé, in Togo, the city where Tesprit works and lives. Here, dumps are populated by the Dzimakplao: homeless children who gather in the suburbs, looking for rests of copper and other material, resold to earn a living. 


Tesprit starts by taking photos of the children of Lomé. After the collection and selection of the slippers, he then assembles, all alone, the rubber in different colour tones, cut in various shapes and heights. The results are artworks made with relentless care, which evoke both the identities of the lost children of his country and the original point of departure: Dzimakplao, in Togolese language, also means “slipper”. Evoking all at once the children’s precariousness and vulnerability, as well as their playfulness and vitality, Tesprit pays homage to their identities, while hiding their facial features, carved into rubber. Faces are all at once outlined and censored, with an act of erasure or dissimulated forgetfulness – the renunciation of sketching eyes, noses, and mouths – a deliberate choice of heightening the children’s invisibility. These anonymous portraits stand alone as a form of denunciation and celebration, and a translation of matter into a new form of portrait-making, with an entirely sustainable, ecological approach. 


Tesprit also leads the viewer towards another dimension: by altering skin tones, he alters reality alone, while questioning the core status of the spectator as a human being, as well as his relatively privileged position. Eventually, the viewer becomes the object, the other, and another, at the crossroads between realism and surrealism.