His distinctive, faux-naïf style is inspired by the iconography of Abidjan’s ‘Nouchi’ graffiti (the term refers to a colloquial dialect that is the preferred language of Ivoirians in Abidjan), traditional wood masks and Vodou. His work is often likened to that of Jean-Michel Basquiat, though comparisons with the loose brushwork of Cy Twombly and the graffiti-inspired, collaged paintings of Jean Dubuffet are perhaps more rewarding.
In thick layers of paint, oil stick and found materials (such as newspapers, magazines and art catalogues), Aboudia depicts everyday life for the children of Abidjan’s toughest, most dilapidated neighbourhoods. The children’s chalk scrawls on the walls and pavements in those districts, he has said, express what is ‘deep within them,’ as well as their dreams and ambitions. Identifying with their experience, he seeks to ‘retransmit the message.’
Abdoulaye Diarrassouba was born in 1983, in Abengourou, north of Abidjan. He discovered art at school, where he won a competition titled 'Draw me Your Dream' and at 15, left home to study art and mural painting at the Centre Technique des Arts Appliqués in Bingerville, a suburb of Abidjan. He graduated from Bingerville’s Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 2005.
Aboudia came to international notoriety suddenly, with paintings he made in the wake of Côte d'Ivoire’s disputed 2010 presidential election. Throughout the ensuing standoff and the 2010–11 civil war he remained in Abidjan, taking refuge in his basement when explosions shook his studio walls.
Paintings he made during this period are notable for the appearance of armed soldiers and guns. Even so, he dismisses the label ‘war artist’, insisting he only desires to ‘to tell our story for the next generation.’
Aboudia was discovered in 2011 by a German artist, Stefan Meisel, who saw his work on Facebook, bought two paintings and offered to represent him. Following two exhibitions in London, at Jack Bell Gallery then Saatchi Gallery, his work was acquired for Jean Pigozzi’s Contemporary African Art Collection (CAAC), the Frank Cohen Collection and the permanent collection of the Saatchi Gallery, and led to exhibitions at art fairs including Art Basel and 1:54.
Aboudia is currently among the most sought-after artists in contemporary African art sales. In 2022, Untitled (2018), sold at Christie’s in London for £504,000, setting a new auction record for the artist.