FABRICE MONTEIRO: THE IRON WARRIOR (Senegal, Visual Artist)
‘The Iron Warrior can transform matter into art with a simple gesture of his hands. When he does this his hands glow hot and blue as he welds metal to metal – sculpting iron like clay.’
Fabrice Monteiro is a Belgian-Beninese creative with one of most exciting artistic visions on the African continent today. However, he began his journey as a creative revolutionary with very little focus on art. In fact, Monteiro is an industrial engineer by training. He was raised in Benin but left at the age of 17 to study in Belgium.
It was during his studies there that he began to dabble in modelling. He did it for about 12 years, which allowed him to travel around the world. This venture into the world of fashion as a professional model exposed him to the world of picture making. It sparked his flame and grew his interest in photography. In 2007, he started his career as a fashion photographer in NYC but rapidly felt the need to give more meaning to his work.
Africa would become his main source of inspiration.
Monteiro built his reputation with his striking portrait photography. He made simple images that told complex stories with works that explored the story of the slave trade in his hometown of Ouidah, Benin. The work involved staging the shackles that were put on slaves to prevent them from escaping. Monteiro often speaks about questioning our humanity.
He has since developed a photographic body of work bordering magic-realism, photo-reportage, and fashion photography. Monteiro has found a refreshing new way to merge this love for photography with his love for his land of origin: Africa. He dreams to build a unique visual universe with his images addressing subjects such as politics, religion, environment or identity.
Monteiro draws his inspiration beyond his African heritage too. As he puts it, “I consider myself transcultural: I am as much African as I am European,” says Monteiro, who is half Beninese, half Belgian.
The recent series of images that formed his Basel Photo exhibition titled, The Prophecy, were informed by Africa’s environmental challenges. Styled in the language of Afro-Futurism, the work aims to highlight urgent ecological issues all over the world. It saw Monteiro travelling to some of the most polluted places in Africa to create terrifying characters dressed in eerie debris. To do this, he salvaged various kinds of waste material and repurposed it as found objects to dress his models who became embodiments of fantastic characters. He has created new kinds of African mythological spirits on a mission to make humans change their ways. Fabrice lives and works in Dakar.