Ghanaian artists stage cross-border exhibition in Lagos

Published by: Nurudeen Oyewole | 27-Oct-2016
In what could be taken as an unprecedented act, artists from Ghana, a neighbouring West African country came to Nigeria to stage an exhibition and this report captured it vividly.
In what could be described as a warm handshake across the border, seven Ghanaian artists are now in Lagos, staging an art exhibition termed: New Threads.

With 69 unique paintings on canvas and jute, sculptures and photographs, Kofi Setordji, Kofi Agorsor, Nii Obodai, Nicholas Kowalski, Constance Swaniker, Nyornuwofia Agorsor and Nana Anoff, said they have brought to the floor, notable artworks each of them have had to put together in many years of practices.

Described as leading and emerging contemporary artists, the Ghanaians insisted that more than anything, the exhibition has become an evolving artistic ecosystem for people who share longstanding relationship across the border in West Africa sub-region and the continent at large.

In driving home the purposes of the exhibition, a sculptor and experimental artist, Kofi Setordji said the whole idea behind the exhibition is etched on a successful blend of modern and ancient creativities that are packaged in contemporary colors and expressions that focus attention on current global issues.

The exhibition's curator, Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago agreed with Setordji's position. She said a recurring theme in the exhibition is the interwoven renewal of universal symbols through expressions of modernity. The artworks address frontline issues such as migration, environment and emancipation of the girl child, leadership and democracy.

Obiago said nothing underscored the importance of the exhibition better like having celebrated and a veteran sculptor such as Setordji being in the team of artists participating in New Thread.

"His bold, colorful world of abstraction is deeply rooted in documenting the history of modern Africa with its political battles over power and the tensions and gaps in our leadership," the curator said. "From recently documenting the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, to creating works which reflected on the genocide in Rwanda, Setordji's abstract sculptures and paintings add color and political gravitas to our African narrative."

Of interest on the exhibition trail is the participation of a couple: Kofi and Nyornuwofia Agorsor. While Kofi, the hubby is well grounded in visual art, his wife, Nyornuwofia has potentials that spread through music and visual arts.

Kofi said his creative works are inspired from traditional culture, rituals and beliefs of Ghanaians which he said have become much more reflected in every piece he puts out for his admirers and enthusiast alike.

On the other hand, Nyornuwofia said she has a "naïve style", one that is well inscribable in all of her works.

"It is my conviction that education is a basic human right. And this I try to reflect on many of my works, because I feel the need to present the innocent-like or naïve-like reality," Nyornuwofia said.

Well noticeable in her works are large canvases that are sub-divided into plains of colors which are inscribed with miniscule formulas and intricate childlike landscapes, asserting the need for technological innovation and advancement to find the formula of progress for Africa.

Nana Anoff is the second woman on the exhibition trail. She has up her sleeves, works that reflect contemporary expressions through sculpture and other creativities coined out of recycled metal objects and machine parts. Indeed, her two dimensional metal sculptures capturing scenes of migration on foot, on bike and on the now famous tricycle otherwise known as "Marwa" or "Keke NAPEP" among Nigerians.

"In preparing some of these works, I did ensure that the repurposed metal works are complemented by Constance Swaniker's metal sculptures, including the life size pretty wings, which show an enfolding female form in the process of morphing into an 'African avatar,' complete with Ankara adorned wings, reflecting my views on feminism and emancipation that are deeply rooted in my social activism," Anoff said.

For Nicholas Kowalski, versatility in the use of geometric paintings that centres on imagery of the popular Baobab tree, has become unique identity, hard to be separated from every of his creations.

More poignant is Kowalski's noticeable comfort in constant depiction of landscapes and human imagery with geometric precision interspersed with intricately fragmented patterns that are commonly reflected in Ankara fabrics. This he does with finesse of celebrating Adinkra symbols which draw on the universal proverbs and philosophy of African culture.

Yet, none among the artists seems to be much at home with photography like Nii Obodai's who has also put on display at the exhibition, works in his celebrated series, Who Knows Tomorrow. The series capture Obodai's sojourn across Ghana, while trying to put in place, a better understanding of the country's independence and the many struggles of Ghana's founding father - Kwame Nkrumah.

Reiterating the exhibition's objective, Obiago said a time has now come for art lovers, collectors and enthusiasts to "move beyond buying art from other parts of Africa, international auctions in London or at global art fairs and stretch out a hand of creative friendship across our porous borders." She said by doing so, more opportunities would be created for cutting edge contemporary African expressions in each others' countries.

Sponsored by the Swiss Global Bank, the exhibition is to run till mid-November, 2016.

"We are delighted to be hosting some of Ghana's finest contemporary artists. This is our second international group show in 2016, and we are delighted to be broadening the artistic offering and conversation in Nigeria," Kabir Wadhwani, Director, Temple Muse Director said.

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