Article first published on on June 6, 2024


Southern Guild is pleased to present ‘Six Prayers’ by Franco-Beninois artist King Houndekpinkou, a series of six large-scale ceramic sculptures, from 6 June to 22 August, 2024.


Known for his distinctive vocabulary of shape, texture and colour, Houndekpinkou’s work revels in unexpected hybridities, the product of a diasporic world-view that resists cultural borders. He has developed an explorative practice that blends tradition and ancient spirituality with modern techniques, drawing heavily from Japanese and West African culture. Born in Montreuil, France to Beninese parents in 1987, Houndekpinkou grew up in the suburbs of Paris. His adolescence was shaped by his discovery of Japanese pop culture, anime and video games. A trip to Japan in 2012 awakened an interest in the country’s ancestral pottery, whose ceremonial approach to craft and Shintoism resonated strongly with the animism of Beninese Voudou.

Houndekpinkou’s guiding philosophy, the interdependence and divine nature inherent in all aspects of life, is evidenced in his approach to this body of work. Through alchemical processes of clay-making and new forms of magic, sacred geometries meet fractals from the future. He juxtaposes smooth against rough, matt against gloss, rounded shapes against angular forms, spikes that repel next to tentacles that reach out and attract. That draw in as they rebuff.

Houndekpinkou’s work reflects a creolisation of multiple knowledge systems and influences known as syncretism – the fusion of different traditions, beliefs or practices into a new, cohesive whole. It often occurs when diverse cultural or religious systems come into contact and interact, leading to the integration of elements from each tradition.

Produced over eight weeks while participating in the GUILD Residency in Cape Town, Six Prayers fuses a variety of traditions with future possibilities to offer new myths to new gods, complete with their own ritualistic objects. Houndekpinkou offers these six vessels as super realities in the same multiverse. Having learned the meditative art of wheel-thrown ceramics under master potter Toshiaki Shibuta in Bizen – one of the six ancient kilns of Japan known as the Roku Koyō – he infuses a deep spiritual intent into his process, creating vessel forms that he then stacks and clusters into sculptural totems in which function dissolves into dysfunction.

His use of texture is masterful and unexpected. He self-theorises his work in the same manner that he theorises mythical realms for his sculptures. “What really gives life to a piece is its texture. The texture makes the colour come alive. I want to make pieces that look like they’re living, moving, and breathing.” Clay forms are curved into smooth precision, only to be disrupted by shocks of colour, sharp stalks, and crackling glazes. He scrapes into levelled surfaces, making carvings and incisions. Tiny, coral-like fingers reach out of the cavernous body of a large vessel of royal, marbled blues. Glazes and tints are made to specific, customised formulations. Potions to activate and energise.

The poly-hued vessel The New Deities’ Platter: Enough for All the Gods to Eat embodies the artist’s textural ambitions. A tentacle-covered bowl provides a foundation for the other vessels affixed to it – a vessel comprised of many others. Three-dimensional spindles rise into flat carvings that eventually relent into an even smoothness. As if to push the work to its point of overwhelm, its mid-section is laden with large, knobbly bulbs in a deep glossy glaze, the colour of rich earth. Polytheistic in form and concept, the work is a reference to offerings of food made to deities of no particular religion, its scale and textural range a comment on abundance. “There is enough food for all the gods to eat,” explains Houndekpinkou. “The pieces make me think of a fruit platter with berries, oranges and other fruit.”

The ceramicist uses a number of painting techniques – brushing, spraying, drizzling – but a bulb syringe is responsible for his lavish drippings of paint, a recurring motif reminiscent of candle wax and libations splattered on ritual altars in Voudou. Some glazes crackle, promising undiscovered treasure. Some areas are treacly thick with tint, while others leave the clay naked and vulnerable. Teasing at biomimicry, spikes borrow their form from the natural world. Like thorns, they protect the vessel, allowing it to hold some of its beauty for itself.

Through his multi-textural vessels, King Houndekpinkou presents Six Prayers as contemporaneous alchemy, combining elements of science, pop culture, philosophy, mysticism, and myth.

Six Prayers by King Houndekpinkou runs concurrently with Madoda: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by Madoda Fani and Like Something Almost Being Said by Adam Birch.


Text written by Editor, Writer and Cultural Critic Lindokule Nkosi

Image courtesy of Hayden Phipps/Southern Guild


Article first published on on March 7, 2024


For King Houndekpinkou, the first ceramicist to participate in the GUILD Residency, everything is everything. Which is to say, that everything is interconnected and interdependent. It all consists of the same intrinsic divine nature, derived from the same divine source.


All aspects of life and existence are ultimately part of a unified whole, connected through space-time by a never-ending continuum. Cycles, spirals and circles. The spinning plate of a potter’s wheel. Flicks of asphalt, water and dust kicked up by thick wet tyres as he motorcycles through Paris’s circuitous streets. A needle tracing grooves debossed into a record. The dizzying and precise merry-go-round of melody and time. The memory coiled inert in the clay, waiting to be spun into activation.


“It’s all in there, in the clay,” Houndekpinkou says. “To me, clay is the oldest, most profound encyclopedia.” The artist, like the precise recipes he uses to formulate his clay – some earth from Paris, Benin, Japan – is an exact and particular blend of influences. Named after the preeminent civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, with a Mina middle name that loosely translates as “all is well / ok / satisfactory”, King’s copacetic manner guides his ideas of life, being and becoming.


Of Franco-Beninois heritage, Houndekpinkou grew up in the suburbs of Paris obsessed with video games, anime and Japan. In 2012, after a stint working in the UK in communications, he would take his first trip to the Land of the Rising Sun and be introduced to the language of sculpting and moulding clay. Whatever he was looking for – that compelling search for meaning in the hamster ring of existence – he found it in the sticky, primordial matter.


Clay is ancient. Acting like an archive, each individual particle contains a record of geography, biology and the philosophies of time. “Clay has absorbed all the knowledge of the world and from humanity. Each vibration through time. Everything that has happened, each conversation is encapsulated in clay. It’s the ideal source to search for answers for who I am.”


Biblically, the potter’s wheel is used allegorically to illustrate various spiritual concepts, particularly regarding God’s relationship with humanity and destiny. The allegory of the potter and the clay also highlights the themes of surrender, transformation and refinement; the notion of surrendering to a higher force in order to be shaped into one’s divine purpose.


“There’s a very strong aspect of throwing a piece on the wheel that is associated with trajectory for me. Life trajectory and how you manoeuvre your path. How you take certain curves, refine certain parts… stuff like that. When I work on the wheel, one of the things that I pay attention to is the lines, and my fingers. They leave lines on the piece of clay, you can see where my hands stress the clay, a circular thing that just goes round like this.” He splays his fingers around an imagined vessel and traces spiralling indents around it. “Motorcycling is also about trajectories. About being able to round the curves well. I’m a geek for that kind of precision.”


The vessels he makes hold that exacting nature, but they resist finality. For King, they are but one phase in the biorhythm and life cycle of clay. From the structured rigidity of rock, the attrition that breaks it down, the pliable surrender of clay… the resultant vessel that emerges from his hands and the kiln is every bit as malleable as the soil it was shaped from. Charged by its history and animated by the maker, the work is ignited through the imaginations of those who interact with it.


“The GUILD Residency has provided me with the opportunity to broaden my perspectives in terms of my work,” says Houndekpinkou. “I’m working on a larger scale, and deepening my understanding through the ideas and the people I meet here.”


Text written by Editor, Writer and Cultural Critic Lindokule Nkosi

Image courtesy of Hayden Phipps/Southern Guild


Announcing the Tokyo After Dark art installation in collaboration with Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch Whiskey, going line on June 2nd at Harrods in London, UK.


More information here.


Dates: 18 January – 15 May, 2023

Musée Mohammed VI d’Art Moderne & Contemporain

2 avenue Moulay Hassan, Rabat