A few days before Côte d'Ivoire's 55th independence anniversary scheduled for August 7, 2015, it can be said that the action of promoters such as Thierry Dia will make it possible to restore the history of contemporary art in Côte d'Ivoire.
From then on, Thierry Dia understood that art could constitute a safe haven. Better yet, an investment. However, this dimension of the works of art will not attract this young man. He, a child of Adjamé, quartié rouge. What will he do with the paintings? While it would have been better to invest in other areas.
It is an exhibition of a group of students (Charlaman, Serges Gossé, Anouma...) from the National School of Fine Arts of Abidjan (Enab) that will create the trigger for Thierry. Going shopping in a supermarket in Deux-Plateaux, he discovers, with other art lovers, this painting exhibition.
Beyond the works of fine craftsmanship offered by these emerging artists, he discovers with despair that after obtaining the Diplôme d'études supérieures en art option arts plastiques (Desa-Ap), the equivalent of a Bac+4, only art education is offered to the luckiest. After an admission to the entrance exam to the Centre de formation professionnelle à l'action culturelle (Cfpac). As for the others, they will have to face the harsh realities of integration into the economic fabric.
Since Enab does not train artists but learners in art techniques, Thierry Dia decided to give a chance to all those who believe they have an artistic soul. This was done through the project to create an agency to promote the visual arts.
Along with some cultural journalist friends, he transformed his home in Angré-Djibi into a special art gallery. Every weekend, the group meets there to appreciate the works of the young people co-opted by Thierry Dia.
His favorite at the time, Charlaman, currently a former art teacher at the Lycée d'enseignement artistique d'Abidjan, currently in training in France, remembers: "It is thanks to me that all these students hesitating and fearing to be fired - because the teachers disapproved that students expose while still in school - have asserted themselves and had the courage to approach Thierry".
A computer engineer at the Cocoa Coffee Council, Thierry Dia says that for him, the trigger started with Charlaman. He then decided to leave the informal world. Thus, he could not continue to transform his personal home into a gallery. Although his wife Renée Dia sees no disadvantage in this; since very quickly, she becomes the mother of young artists.
It was then that he created in 2001, the Houkami Guyzagn agency, which is both a gallery and a structure for the promotion of the visual arts. Its targets, young artists for a clientele mainly composed of young Ivorian or African executives working in Abidjan.
To do things right, an art magazine entitled "Le Guyzagner, mécène de l'art" is being launched to support the promotion of the visual arts.
Unique in its kind, this free service will attract the oldest in the art world. Michel Kodjo, the first Ivorian painter, James Oura, Monné Bou, Gérard Santoni, Mathilde Moro, Youssouf Bath, Cyprien Kablan, Koffi Donkor... will cover "Le Guyzagner".
Still within the framework of the promotion of the plastic arts, Thierry Dia initiates a platform for exchange and debate around art entitled "Apéro-Art". At the head of a small team, he also initiated a national biennale of the plastic arts called "Les Guyzagn" which is in its 5th edition. Aimed solely at young people, this competition revealed, according to observers of the art scene in Côte d'Ivoire, that the next generation of artists was assured. All this has made Houkami Guyzagn an essential destination for artists from Côte d'Ivoire and the sub-region.
Today, Mobio Agoh Stefane known as Mobiagoh, Sanogo Souleymane known as Pachard, Guy Kouadio, Soro Pehouet, Konan Pascal, Elvis Donkor, Amani Désiré, Aboudia who all enjoy international fame have made their first step there. And above all, benefit from the supervision of the experts of "Houkami Guyzagn" among whom, the art critic Errol Mimi Auguste.
Behind his intellectual proofreaders, Dia is also a true art dealer for whom "you never enter a gallery by chance". According to him, the commercial strategy in art must take into account the marketing and communication aspect.
Today, even if he does not boast about it, Thierry has succeeded in getting the works of the young artists he manages accepted by renowned collectors and art lovers in Côte d'Ivoire: Simplice De Messé Zinsou, Martine Coffi Studer, Adama Toungara, Nahim Suti, Hamed Bakayoko, Pr. Yacouba Konaté... to name a few.
As if he had felt, invested with a mission, Mr. Dia appropriated a dream dear to the young artists by making available to them an art centre located in the Riviera-Attoban, called the "Promised Land". According to him, this centre also aims to welcome artists in residence in Côte d'Ivoire.
A few days before the celebration of the year 55 of Côte d'Ivoire scheduled for August 7, 2015, it can be said that the action of promoters such as Thierry Dia will make it possible to restore the history of contemporary art in Côte d'Ivoire.
Text : CHEICKNA D. Salif
Traduction : Gladys Anoh