Owanto is a multi-cultural Gabonese artist born in Paris, France. She was raised in Gabon and subsequently emigrated to Europe where she continued to study Philosophy, Literature and Languages at the Institut Catholic de Paris in Madrid, Spain. She currently lives and works between Africa, Europe and the United States of America.
Described as a multidisciplinary artist, Owanto works across a variety of media including photography, sculpture, painting, video, installation and performative works. She explores her personal heritage, questioning her history as the daughter of a Gabonese mother and French father. Furthermore, she investigates themes relating to identity politics and transformation, sequencing images from personal archives into collages, a universe that defies the laws of time and space and creates cross-cultural and transhistorical dialogues.
Owanto’s work often addresses sensitive and somewhat taboo issues, concerning cultural and religious practices which adversely affect individuals on personal as well as social levels.
However, as Fernando Francés argues in an article published in The Lighthouse of Memory, Go Nogé Mènè, Christian Maretti Editore (2009), “The ideas and principles which underlie Owantoʼs message are as simple as nature. Her animist convictions, and belief that family unity is a starting point for world unity, are deeply rooted in her Gabonese background. The home, for Owanto, is the best laboratory in which to design and build love, a raw material that is vital for mutual understanding in the world. This laboratory, in which mothers are symbols of unity and courage, is a metaphor for hope that a better world is possible if each of us exerts a positive influence on our immediate environment, our family, our tribe, our society.”
Notable solo exhibitions include: The Lighthouse of Memory, Go Nogé Mènè Republic of Gabon Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale (Venice, Italy: 2009); El Faro de la Memoria at Galería Maior (Palma de Mallorca, Spain: 2011); Où Allons Nous at Voice Gallery (Marrakech, Kingdom of Morocco: 2012); Protect, Public Art intervention at Jardins de Saint Martin (Monaco: 2013) and Flowers at Conseil National (Monaco: 2016).
Her work also features in the following prominent group shows: Cinquantenaire des Indépendances Africaines at Maison de L’Unesco (Paris, France: 2010); Gabon: Ma Terre Mon Futur at Gabon Expo (Libreville, Gabon: 2010); Neighbours at CAC Málaga (Málaga, Spain: 2012); Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa at Smithsonian National Museum of African Art (Washington DC, USA: 2013); DÓNDE VAMOS Performance at Off the OFF Dak’Art (Dakar, Senegal: 2014); Beauty at La Térmica (Málaga, Spain: 2015) and La Jeune Fille à la Fleur at 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair (London, United Kingdom: 2016).