Désenchaînement II

Julien Sinzogan, Beninese, born 1957



Colored inks and acrylic on paper

Overall: 27 9/16 × 47 1/4 in. (70 × 120 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Purchased through the Phyllis and Bertram Geller 1937 Memorial Fund and the Guernsey Center Moore 1904 Memorial Fund



Place Made: Benin, Western Africa, Africa


21st century

Object Name


Research Area



Not on view


In Yoruba worldview, life follows a cyclical trajectory in which every individual experiences the physical world (Aye) and, upon death, returns to the spiritual realm (Orun), where they are reborn as a protective ancestral spirit. In exploring the voyage that bridges the secular and the spiritual, Julien Sinzogan draws connections to another significant voyage tied to his Beninese heritage: the Middle Passage of the transatlantic slave trade.

Masses of Egungun masqueraders, the visible manifestation of ancestral spirits, are portrayed alongside the distorted figures of enslaved people chained against slave ships. Dressed in colorful costumes symbolizing familial lineage and traditional clothing, the Egungun appear to be intervening in the physical world. Or perhaps they represent the freed souls of the ship’s recently deceased? In French, désenchaînement translates to "unchaining," the act of delivering someone from chains. Aside from distinguishing the spiritual from the earthly, could color also evoke hope and freedom?

From the 2022 exhibition A Space for Dialogue 107, Coloring the Western Canon, curated by Chloe Jung '23, Class of 1954 Intern

Course History

ENGL 62.22/AAAS 88.11, Atlantic Slavery to Atlantic Freedom, Alysia Garrison, Winter 2021

SART 25.01, Painting I, Viktor Witkowski, Winter 2022

SART 25.02, Painting I, Viktor Witkowski, Winter 2022

College Course 35.01, Color in Art & Philosophy, Viktor Witkowski and John Kulvicki, Winter 2023

Humanities 2.01, The Modern Labyrinth, Lucas Hollister, Petra McGillen, Andrea Tarnowski, Laura Edmondson, Winter 2023

Art History 20.04, Faith and Empire, Beth Mattison, Spring 2023

Exhibition History

A Space for Dialogue 107, Coloring the Western Canon, Chloe Jung, June 25 - August 21, 2022, Alvin P. Gutman Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire.

Inventory: New Works and Conversations around African Art, Friends Gallery/Owen Robertson Cheatham Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 16-March 13, 2016.


October Gallery Trust, London; sold to present collection, 2015.

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