Ephrem Kouakou is one of the world's foremost African painters, currently residing in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. His powerful, vivid paintings are in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum, New York, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington DC. He is noted for his bold blend of indigenous African visual sensibilities and folk motifs with Western creative technique. He was born in 1962 in Central Ivory Coast, West Africa. As a member of the Baoule ethnic group associated with the Akan people of Southwest Ivory Coast, Kouakou's painting is heavily influenced by his heritage. As a young man Kouakou participated in the initiation rites and ceremonies of the Akan, guided by his elders. These enabled him to actualize the deep spiritual life of the Akan, which manifests in his work as themes of tribal community, fertility masks, protective spirits, animal guides, inward spiritual reflection, and powerful, larger-than-life women.
When he was 17 years old, Kouakou walked 3000 miles from his Ivory Coast village to Algeria, a journey which took over three months. He then made his way to France, where he studied at France's best art academies, including L'Ecole des Beaux Arts, Angers (1981-1982), Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Aix-en Provence, (1982-1983), and Ecole Superieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris (1984-1986).
His works on both canvas and paper are noted for their highly saturated, intense color, achieved by mixing raw pigment powders into glue.
Kouakou has exhibited in galleries and museums internationally including France, Belgium, Switzerland, and the United States. He has lived in the United States since 1990 in New York, Washington DC, and currently Baltimore. He is currently represented by Still Life Fine Art Gallery in Ellicott City, MD.