Travel
Gouzou spotting in Reunion Island – an interview with Jace
July 30, 2014
10
,

Reunion Island is basically one big outdoor gallery for street art and graffiti fans. My first introduction to the island’s street art culture was at OR Tambo airport in Joburg, where I was fortunate to meet Reunionaise street artist Jace just before boarding my flight to Reunion. I had no idea that I’d just met Reunion’s most famous street artist.

Jace even rescued me from the not-so-friendly Reunion immigration officials who weren’t so keen to stamp my passport on arrival as I didn’t have a copy of my return ticket or hotel booking!! Luckily he was there to explain to the immigration police in French that I was being hosted by Reunion Tourism as part of a media trip to island.

Gouz who?

Little did I realise that Jace’s street art character Gouzou (pronounced ‘goo-zoo’) would become the unofficial mascot of my Reunion trip and the subject of our very own Gouzou spotting game!

The first Gouzou I spotted was fresh off the plane – a litle sticker of the litte Gouzou going around the luggage conveyor belt in circles.  I was in love… well as in love with a street art character than you can get. How could I not love a little guy with a big heart?

Gouzou

Conveyor belt Gouzou (he looks like he jumps like me!) – apologies for the dodgy pic 

You may have realised by now that I’m a huge fan of graffiti and street art (see my posts on Joburg and Cape Town street art). Our guide, Nico informed me that Jace was a local street art and graffitti legend and that murals of Gouzou were to be found all over the island. Nico was very passionate about Gouzou and the element of fun and colour her brought to Reunion.

Spot the Gouzou

And so our ‘Spot the Gouzou’ game was born. During our tours around the island, the first person to spot a Gouzou would get a point. Easy peasy. It provided us with many hours of entertainment while we were driving between places.

Gouzou bridge

Gouzou spotted from the side of the highway, Reunion Island – Pic by @LaurentDeNazareth

Gouzou spotting is the perfect Reunion road trip game. He appears in various forms everywhere on the island – from little stickers hidden on street signs and electrity boxes, to massive roadside murals and bridges.  You just have to keep your eyes open, and before you know it … GOUZOU!!  

Gouzou Jace

 What Reunion lacks in local fauna, it makes up in Gouzous.

 

After a few days in Reunion, our group started to get quite competitive about Gouzou spotting. Until I spotted a series of Gouzou’s on a wall and shouted ‘GOUZOU!’ around ten times. It was clear that I’d won the game. After that no-one wanted to play anymore 🙁

Gouzou everywhere!

Gouzou suddenly seemed very familiar. I then recalled that I’d spotted Gouzou in Cape Town earlier this year, when I’d done a street art walk in Woodstock.  I just didn’t realise who he was. Gouzou was famous in South Africa too!  I was soon to learn that Gouzou was famous around the world. Wherever Jace travels, so Gouzous can be found.

Gouzou sticker

Gouzou sticker on an electricity box – St Gilles, Reunion

Jace sticker

Gouzou sticker at the studio of Kid Kreol and Boogie, St Denis, Reunion

An interview with Jace – father of Gouzou

Lucky for me I had met Jace on my  flight to Reunion.  I sent him a message on his Facebook page to ask if he’d mind doing an interview with me, and he kindly obliged.

MG: How long have you been doing street art? When did you create Gouzou? Is all your art based on Gouzou, or are there other characters?

JACE: Since 1989, but back it was more about graffiti than street art ;-)) ! I created Gouzou in 1992. I also paint some other stuff but people are more reactive to Gouzous…

Reunion Jace Yann Macherez

 Jace and an army of Gouzous – pic by Yann Macherez

MG: In my observation, Gouzou is a fun little character – with no particular gender or race who finds himself in funny and absurd situations. What does Gouzou represent to you? What was your inspiration?

JACE: Humanity, he is YOU, he is ME. He is a part of all of us. Gouzou is like my (big) baby, he is always on his way. I admit I was inspired by the late 70’s and early 80’s New-York graffiti artists – Keith Haring among others.

MG: Any idea how many Gouzous you’ve painted on Reunion Island?  Or Paris? Or in total? 

JACE: Well, let’s say hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands and thousands ;-)) !!!

street art gouzou cape town

Jace & Gouzou mural in Cape Town – pic by Yann Macherez

MG: I’ve seen Gouzou in Reunion and Cape Town. Which other cities can a street art fan go Gouzou hunting?

JACE: I traveled into more than 25 countries, some of them are so old that I’m afraid that they all disappeared, but to name afew around here – Mauritius, Mayotte, Madagsacar, Botswana. I think you could find the others on my French wikipedia page.  (MG: I checked – there are Gouzous all over the world from France to Bali!)

MG: The street art and graffiti scene seems to be pretty big in Reunion, even though it is a small island. I was lucky to visit the studio of Kid Kreol and Boogie. Who are other Reunionaise artists to watch out for?

JACE: Those two guys rock, and there are many others – Pandakrew, Gorgone, Omouk, Meo, PTM, MOB, DKPEZ, PRC… I’m afraid I couldn’t name all the rockers out there.

Street art Cape Town

 Gouzou mural in Cape Town – pic by Yann Macherez

MG: How long have you been living in Reunion?  Do you have any local tips for a tourist visiting the island? 

JACE: I arrived with my parents in 1982. Some places I love: Riviere Langevin (crazy waterfalls and many place to swim in the river with a crazy green nature all around) and the volcano of course! I also love L’etang-sale beach with its black sand. People are really nice here – don’t hesitate to talk with them. They are sometimes shy,  especially if they don’t speak English but most of the time they are very kind. The food in Reunion is amazing  – a real  mix of Chinese, Indian, European.

MG: Do you know of anyone offering street art tours of Reunion?

JACE: I heard about the local south tourism office who recently organised a street art tour in the streets of St-Pierre. IMG_8621

Massive  Gouzou mural in St Denis, Reunion. Wish I’d taken a better pic of this – it’s was epic

Have you spotted Gouzou on your travels?

Maybe you did but didn’t even realise it! If you’re in Reunion, Paris, Mauritius or Cape Town you should definitely look out for him!

For more info on Jace and Gouzou, check out his website, or his blog. To see Gouzous all over the world, check out the #Gouzou hashtag on Instagram or Tumblr.

Happy Gouzou spotting!

Note: The #GoToReunion campaign was a hosted media trip by Réunion Tourism Board and Air Austral. All opinions expressed on this blog are mine! 

About author

Meruschka Govender

Related items

You may want to read these posts too

MS_Rhino10

World Rhino Day: MyPlanet Rhino fund gives Kruger’s anti-poaching efforts new wings

Reunion Island is basically one big outdoor galler...

Read more
Exploring Swahili ruins in Lamu

My top things to do in Kenya besides a safari

Reunion Island is basically one big outdoor galler...

Read more
Mauritius 2

I’d rather be in Mauritius

Reunion Island is basically one big outdoor galler...

Read more

There are 10 comments

  • Johlet says:

    That is so cool!

  • Kate says:

    That is so awesome! I want to find a gooooooozooooooo now!

    • mzansigirl says:

      Thanks Kate. I’ve seen instagrams of Gouzou stickers in Joburg. Guess we’ll just have to keep looking.

  • This is interesting. I now feel like Gooo-Zoooo-ing!!

    • mzansigirl says:

      Thanks for the comment! You should totally look out for Gouzou on your travels! If you find him share a pic with me on Twitter!

  • […] to go and what you can do on the island, but one of the posts that interested me most was that from MzansiGirl talking about the very well known Gouzou. This playful little character can be found all over the […]

  • Queen-fisher says:

    Very nice article! You caught very well this thought: “Reunion Island is basically one big outdoor gallery for street art and graffiti fans. ”

    I felt exactly the same!:)

    And we also kind of played the game “spot gouzou”))

    And I also met Jace for interview))

    First article I wrote about him is here:
    http://queen-fisher.com/2015/01/07/about-pearls-street-artist-jace-and-miracles/

    And now I’m working on big interview as well.

    P.S. I like the way you write, your humour and your writing manner itself! Well done!

  • Queen-fisher says:

    Hello again! I have published my full interview with Jace, I thought you might be interested! And I also gave a link to yours because so far it looked to me like the most interesting interview with him in English! Well done!

    http://queen-fisher.com/2015/01/29/living-street-art-an-interview-with-jace/

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *