Express Yourself! – Press Release

Freedom of expression, the cherished and indispensable right enshrined in the founding documents of both our nations, has long been a cornerstone of a strong U.S.-Benin partnership based on shared democratic values such as tolerance, mutual respect, and the peaceful resolution of differences.

From Cotonou to Washington, the hard-won freedom to think, to imagine, to speak, and to dream, is enjoyed by all our people, regardless of who they are or what they believe. Whether wielding a paintbrush or a pen, our citizens are united in their power to speak out, express themselves, and sell their vision of the future in the marketplace of ideas.

This year, in honor of the 61st anniversary of Beninese independence and the 245th anniversary of American independence, the United States Embassy and the Benin YALI Alumni Association are pleased to announce a competition to select twenty-five Beninese artists to paint the compound’s planters along Marina Boulevard, with designs showcasing U.S.-Beninese friendship and telling the story of our common democratic values.

Few mediums share art’s power to provoke, awe, and inspire. Examples are works like those of Beninese artist Romuald Hazoumè, whose haunting La Bouche du Roi serves as a searing but needed reminder of the evils of slavery both historical and modern; or Flag Raising on Iwo Jima by Joe Rosenthal, the iconic photograph of U.S. Marines overcoming adversity, which still evokes strong emotions among Americans nearly 76 years later. Art celebrates and memorializes the human experience in all its beauty, its pain, its abundance, and its insufficiencies. A single piece of art can convey even the most complex ideas in an instant and be universally understood even by those who do not share a common language or culture. Art can and does unite us.

In that spirit of unity, I invite Beninese artists of all backgrounds to submit designs celebrating our shared democratic freedoms and the work the people of our two nations are doing together to achieve a more healthy, secure, prosperous, and democratic world. Those selected will be invited to the Embassy to realize their artistic vision and to share their art with the world. We look forward to celebrating freedom with you.

For more information or to submit your project, please consult the following article on our website: