Master of Fire

Ismaila Putuenchi from Foumban, Cameroon

The contemporary bronzecaster- artist Ismaila Putuenchi belongs to the Bamoun ethnic group in  northwest Cameroon. Ismaila Putuenchi comes from a family of traditional casters working for the sultanate of Foumban. Ismaila is now chief of his clan after his father died several years ago, and he is the most promising of all bronze casters in Cameroon.. His sculptures are made in the „lost wax process“ as done 1,000 yearrs ago. The sculptures are  carved  with bee wax. This process also  makes it possible to carve very filigree pieces. The wax figure is covered with clay, put in a oven, the wax melts, and leaves a negative form into which the metal is poured.

Bronze casting is a classical handicraft in Cameroon, but Ismaila has made it into art. He creates  contemporary art dealing with political issues, the world of spirits and demons. His work is far removed from the traditioanl handicraft which has caused much confusion among his peers. He is confronted with lack of understanding, fear and jealousy. His turning the back to tradition has brought suspicion that he is a witch.. The Bamoun and Ismaila are  traditional muslims, and his new way of looking at the world has caused rejection by his own people. But this does not hinder him from following his goal.

Henning Christoph discoverd Ismaila Putuenchi 10 years ago, and has been his mentor and friend ever since. Christoph urged him to go on with his  work, and bought all of the statues for the Soul of Africa Museum. Ismail is still producing  new pieces for the  museum including a boat with migrants coming to Europe. Christoph and Ismaila undertook a trip into the Cameroon rainforest several years ago where Ismaila discoverd the gorillas and started a series of sculptures depicting the plight of the gorillas and the rainforest in Cameroon. The Soul of Africa Museum now has 40 of Ismaila's sculptures in the collection, and we are proud and pleased that we could accompany Ismaila and his work from the beginning of his transformation to surely one of the great contemporary artists of Africa.

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