Photo courtesy of Comoe Josué.

Comoe Josué Is the Art School Dropout Using Painting to Rekindle His True Self

The Ivorian-Ghanaian former model refuses the fashion industry to put him in a box—and he wants his work to reflect that.

A few months ago, Comoe Josué, a Paris-based model and painter, posted his art on Twitter with hopes that he will get the opportunity to get his first show in an art gallery. The post went viral and a few weeks later, his artwork was exhibited at the prestigious Palais des Arts in Marseille, France.

Josué is not your ordinary painter—he's an art school drop out who started painting 4 months ago and works on and off as a model for the past few years. "My work as a model cannot exist without [my] work as a painter," he says, "but my art will exist with or without modeling." Because he left art school, his formal training was minimal. As a self taught artist, technique doesn't really matter to him. Before he began to paint, he says he needed mature and to live his life as a black man—as a man full stop—so that he would get enough experience to create and express his most intimate feelings.

"I left art school because of the racial harassment I went through there. It just made the angst I felt even worse," he explains. "Education has always had a negative impact on me. I was miserable there but I decided to stick it out and endure it longer. I put so much pressure on myself, believing that I needed a degree at all costs."

Being of Ivorian and Ghanaian descent has incredibly influenced his art. His self portrait entitled, The Sacrificial Son, is a direct reference to Queen Abla Pokou's sacrificed son. Abla Pokou led the Baoulé people from Ghana to Ivory Coast around 1770. "I was the first one of my siblings to move to France," Josué says. "It was pretty difficult, so I mentioned it in my painting as a sacrifice."

"The Prayer" by Comoe Josué. Image courtesy of the artist.

When Josué was 16, he got scouted inside a shop during Paris Fashion week. After his first fashion show, a photographer took a couple of pictures and sent them to a modeling agency which signed him. His hair was shaved, he had the "right look" as a dark skinned model and his career kicked off quickly. He then stopped modeling at 19 before resuming his career last year. This time, he had an afro and realized his career has come to an halt because of was racism and colorism. He noted most models wearing an afro in the industry are light skinned.

Fashion has a very insidious way of pressuring models to change their looks to "fit in." No one would say openly that he looked "too black" but he has been struggling to book modeling gigs. "When I work, people try to make my hair "thinner" or to hide it," Josué says. "It feels like they want me, but not who I truly am, nor my hair." He knows his career could get a boost if he moves to an English speaking country. "I genuinely believe I would be given a chance. Most black models who are working right now live either in London or NYC."

He never had the chance to express himself through his art as a model, and no one ever gave him the opportunity to be something else, other than a model. But it is a job that did inspire him, because he saw and analyzed so much about how beauty standards are created and then destroyed.

"There is such a big difference between them: painting means that I have complete creative control and freedom over myself and what I produce," he explains. "Modeling, on the other hand—I never really see myself there. Making self-portraits is a way to re-appropriate myself, a way to tell the fashion world that I am not who they want me to become. A token. A gimmick. It's my way to give Josué, the model, a soul."

He is not afraid of the many pitfalls that exist for young artists. Josué is aware that there's a part of him that want to get his revenge over an industry that ruled him out and never accepted him for who he was. However, in the end, he is confident: "I have faith in my art, even with the obstacles I have met."

News Brief
Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images

Sudan Declares State of Emergency, As Military Dissolves Transitional Government

As the North African country edged closer to democracy, Sudan's military has seized power.

Sudan's military has seized power over the North African country, arresting multiple civilian leaders, including the current Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. The power-sharing, unstable coalition, called the Sovereign Council, was created as a transitional government after the fall of dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019, in an attempt to move towards a democratic Sudan.

The Sudanese public has been split in recent weeks as groups protested for a military-run state, while others pushed for a civilian lead, democratic nation. Last week, the Prime Minister vocalized his plans towards a full transition to civilian rule, and his plans to have that body in place by November 17, echoing the voices of thousands of Sudanese demonstrators who showed up in hoards to demand that the promise of Sudan's pro-democracy movement be honored. But on Monday the PM and multiple government ministers and officials were placed under arrest, resulting in Sudan's top general's declaring State of Emergency.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said in a televised statement, "To rectify the revolution's course, we have decided to declare a state of emergency nationwide… dissolve the transitional sovereign council, and dissolve the cabinet." His statement came as soldiers fired live rounds at anti-military protestors, outside of the army headquarters in the capital.

Internet services were cut across the country around dawn and the main roads and bridges into Khartoum shut, before soldiers stormed the headquarters of Sudan's state broadcaster in the capital's twin city of Omdurman, the ministry said. After months of rising tensions in the country, army and paramilitary troops have been deployed across the capital city, Khartoum, with the airports and internet access being shut down. As a result of the coup, hundreds of protestors have taken to the streets, demanding the return of a civilian ruled and the transitional government, the BBC reports.

Demonstrators have spread to a number of Sudanese cities including Atbara, Wad Madani, and Port Sudan, and more are expected to attend the call for action. "We will not leave the streets until the civilian government is back and the transition is back," protest attendee Sawsan Bashir told AFP. While demonstrator Haitham Mohamed says, "We are ready to give our lives for the democratic transition in Sudan."

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