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About Ezekiel Messou
Ezekiel Messou was born in 1971 in Benin.
Within his sewing machine repair shop, hidden from outsiders, Ezekiel Messou fills his millimeter-squared school notebooks with a drawn inventory of sewing machine models. Using a pencil sharpened with a cutter blade, he starts out with light lines, almost dashed and, once the framework is sketched in, he begins pressing down harder. He goes on to draw more confidently executed straight lines using a screwdriver or wrench as a ruler. Next he fills in the surfaces, creating different shades of gray, adding the name of the machine brand he is drawing, or replacing it with his own name or his initials.
A final step is to affix the stamp of his establishment in red ink: "Ets qui sait l'Avenir * Réparation des Machines à Coudre * Le Machiniste" ["Establishment who knows the Future *Sewing Machine Repairs* The machinist"]. As Messou puts it, this stamp certifies that he is the author of the composition; it also serves as a sort of copyright: "no one can steal my drawings".
Ezekiel Messou was not a very applied student. At the age of sixteen, escaping his authoritarian father, he left for Nigeria. From 1990 to 1995, he learned to repair sewing machines in Lagos. He chose the mechanics of sewing machines because, in his words, "there are too many fishers, tailors and bricklayers around the lake, whereas no one will know how to do this job.": he wanted to learn something no one knew how to perform in his native town.
To help advance his learning, he started to document all the models of sewing machines that he repaired together with their components in his notebooks.
With time, his drawings have evolved from technical to artistic: he dropped the need of exactitude and started simplifying his machines. The goal was no longer to show the differences between models, but to trace the similarities, the common shape of the sewing machines. His works have evolved from simple, technical drawings into elaborate illustrations characterized by flowing contours and ornate patterns that evoke botanical motifs, in an organic rendition of the machines’ inner working.
Today, Messou has two wives and ten children. He runs his own sewing machine repair workshop in Abomey-Calavi, a south Benin prefecture.
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