A modern artist from Madagascar, Jacques Jean Efiaimbelo created work deeply rooted in the Mahafaly culture of his ancestors. He sough to both honor and extend the ritual of the aloalos, funerary steles that serve as grave makers that represent particular memories of the deceased.
The tradition of aloalos has been transmitted from father to son for generations. Coming from a family of traditional sculptors, Efiaimbelo learned his practice from his great grandfather Soroboko. Over the years, he developed his art practice and passed it on to his son Jacques Jean Efiaimbelo, and his grandson Jean Colomb Efiaimbelo. Today, only five members of the clan perpetuate this unique practice in the same style as their distinguished inspirer.
Efiaimbelo is one of the first sculptors that began painting aloalos for decorative purposes, introducing acrylic colors and new imagery into the genre. Using Mendorave, a very dense, rare and sacred wood exclusively cut and handled by sculptors, he creates vertical sculptures that reaches about 2 meters high. Divided in two distinct parts, they are comprised of the base which is a pole and the upper middle part carved into eight successive geometric motifs painted in vivid colors. On the top of the pole, there is a horizontal platter of varying dimensions, featuring a figurative scene depicting a moment of daily life, a tale, a legend, ancestral wisdom, or a stories shared by members of the Termaromainte clan.
Featured image: Jacques Jean Efiaimbelo - My friend the lemur, 1998 (detail). Wood, paint. 76 × 11 in. 193 × 28 cm. Photo courtesy Perrotin