Thursday, 19 January 2012

A Quote of the Day for you!

The history of art is the history of revivals.
Samuel Butler

The essence of all art is to have pleasure in giving pleasure.
Dale Carnegie

Have a brilliant day.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Nii Tekio - New Works - Dec 2011

Nii Tekio is a male artist from Accra in his 30's. He has two ways of working : painting the 'normal' realistic picture and painting with strokes of colour. The latter style continues to amaze me; because seeing them face to face it amazes you how a person can use strokes of colour to make a scene so visible and very relalistic. He paints scences of things he sees especially in Accra, Ghana. He also paints portraits (an can be comissioned to do so) which are brilliant.
He works with acrylics on canvas.

I once asked him how is came about painting with strokes of colour and he replied by saying:
'One day I was watching the rain fall, and as you know it falls in strokes and then the idea just came to me.' God-given perhaps? It will be easy to say so. His works are even more impressive in real life than in a picture format.
He has many fans around the world and  has exhibitied many times in Ghana and in Washington, USA, with great success.
He is a family man, quite too; but his actions show his bolder inner strength.
I will be getting a full interview with the man soon, and sharing it with you. :)

Here are some pictures of recent paintings by Nii Tekio:
Area Arrival, 36"x26"

Message from the Horn 36"x26"
Calling for a Message 36"x26"
Daily Bread 40"x50"
Day by Day 36"x26"
Eye of God 30"x30"
Fishermen Eye 40"x50"
Legendary 40" x 50"
Market Day 40"x50"
Market Women 36" x 26"
Message from the Tune 50"x50"
Once a kid always a Kid 36"x26"
Portrait 7 30"x20"

Portrait 5 30"x 20"
Rain Dey 40"x50"
Street Market  36" x 26"
Street Dancer 36"x26"
Townscape 36"x 26"
Two heads are better than One. 26"x26"
We will get there. 35"x50"
Women Pride 36"x26"
Faces of Africa 40"x50"
Portrait 6  30"x 20"
Portrait 11 30"x20"
Mother Africa 1 30"x30"
Mother Africa 2
Mother's Sweat 36" x 26"

Preparing Night Mash  40"x50"

Monday, 26 September 2011

Ofei Darko, one of Ghana's best artists, like the other artists I talk about in this Blog. Painter & Sculptor. 'Adoley' his wife, is also a fine artist.

Meditiation II, 2006, Acrylic on Canvas

His work on meditation is of faces, which are painted like masks, African Masks. Meditation the second already suggests there is a first prior to this one; at times it is a painting of great similarity and the painter has an expression in mind which he had not completed on one canvas so had to complete it on another.
Meditation II is a work of simplicity.  We have in the foreground the eight faces and in the background Adinkra Signs (Ghanaian symbols; each one has an individual meaning). Ofei Darko as an artist stated he wanted to do something different and his intuition led him to faces. According to Darko, in Africa we communicate through masks be it for masquerade/ festivals, a representation of a god, a theme or simply used for decoration.  And there are many faces to represent the unity Darko hopes for all of Africa being a follower of Nkrumah’s ideology. All the eight faces are in some way attached to the other next to it and from the second on the left to the end one, a curved line sweeps up from the lip of the face to create a line of composition of a forehead for the other 6 heads in the painting. The eye of the third head becomes the cheekbone and other eye of the forth head. And from the left eye of the forth head the dimensions of the sixth head is created. The curved lines which appear all over the painting, lets the viewer take in the faces as one before you later begin to divide them. It certainly signifies the impression of unity Darko wanted to create.

The other lines found on these faces are like those of so-called scarification lines, placed in certain parts of the face to accentuate the dimensions of the face like in sculpture. But in human faces it is to expose the beauty of definition on a human face. For example on the first face from the left on the forehead Darko paints four curved lines and as it in brown, a dark colour, it helps the artist to define the curve of a forehead; similar lines can be seen on the forehead on the cheekbone of the second face again reminding the viewer of the roundness of the cheekbone. Ofei Darko again uses three lines on the first face (on the left), just below the nose to create a separation between the nose and lips as well as shadow; because on a human face from the nose there is a drop before the lips poke out.
On the third face the lines are clearly used on the side of the face to indicate the sharpness but also a little depth to the face. When ones eyes wander to the heads of these faces, the lines help create an abstract type definition for the tops of the heads (of the faces). The heads seem a little open and it swirls a bit like the meditative mood that leaves the head and takes one to a higher level. These lines originate from the so –called scarification lines once cut into human faces and bodies with a variation of designs. Its significance was to accentuate the face and make it even more beautiful than ever. The designs of scarification have become decorations on sculpture and even print designs of batik fabrics. The practice of scarification can be found all over Africa at times body paint was also used to create these designs as a form of identity or during festivals especially a hundred or so years ago in Africa. Now the practice of scarification has been banned in most African countries but it can still be seen. Even on the faces of some Ghanaians till this day.

The masks are clearly in their natural colour, an oak brown and Ofei Darko uses cream to create light and shade, as well as blue to exaggerate the latter. These colours are repeated through at the painting giving it a sense of space and calm.

The faces all have closed eyes, very rare in sculpture but again reminding the viewer these masks are really a representation of real faces, long, sharp faces. They have closed their eyes because they are meditating; hence the name of the work “Meditation 2”. According to Darko one can see more with their eyes closed than with your eyes open. With ones eyes closed you can delve into your imagination (an artist’s home) and be wherever you want to be in a second and also create whatever you want to see. In all religions we close our eyes to meditate or as in Christianity, pray. It takes you to another level be it of peace or serene certainty. Our imagination is what most people use to create things we see in the physical form. Hence it is a powerful tool according to Ofei Darko and one has to agree. So maybe once in a while we all do some form of meditation.

The back of the painting is filled with lines of adinkra symbols and inspired by patterns of old Africans designs done in straight horizontal lines. Ofei Darko says this idea came to him after seeing the houses in the Northern Region of Ghana  and how much they still decorate  and also design with lines. The Adrinkra bits remind the viewer it is a painting from Ghana and Darko himself is a Ghanaian. The adinkra signs include the famous Gye Nyame sign, meaning Except God, to Sankofa, meaning go back and learn about your roots and take what is needed, Nsuruma, the star, a child of the heavens, and others.

Ofei Darko is a painter and sculptor in his forties; his works of faces are certainly very powerful. They catch you and grab your attention due to the strongness of them. Most are of real faces but there is a great variation in the works. His other works are equally as interesting and sometimes with his play of textures in some paintings one is reminded of ancient cave paintings, slightly Aborigine-like in image. He is certainly African it is deeply rooted in him and it appears in his works. One might look at the work meditation and think ‘Picasso’ but as confirmed by O. Darko himself, Africans have painted this way three thousand years before Picasso. In the West (Europe) Picasso helped to break set rules of art but he does not inspire Ofei Darko. According to the man himself he simply “lets the spirit guide him”.

There is more to come on Ofei Darko. 

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Peter Odeh. Face of Africa, 2003. Acrylic on Canvas. 26” x 36”

It is a classic portrait painting in size as well as subject matter and with additions to emphasise the position of the person in the portrait or what the painter himself wants to portray. In this case the sitter does not know Odeh exists but he knows she does. It is a portrait of Patricia Onuchi, an Ibo, Nigerian and the face of Africa in 1998.
It is a striking portrait. At first glance some have criticised it for looking to photographic, or too sleek, almost like an advertisement I was once told; but that is the power of this portrait. The portrait is suppose to be of a woman who is chosen as face of Africa to represent us internationally in a commercial industry of modelling. The seekness of that industry Odeh captures and makes it a likeable painting. The media industry in mass being quite young in Africa, persons under 35 or so who see this painting often say, wow, I like that; because they are used to the sleekness we now see in most commercial pictures.
Back to the painting, in the foreground is the image based on Patricia.
The female figure appears in a bust–type position (from her chest upwards). She is sideways but her head is turned to be seen full frontal view. Her natural hair is pulled back and elephant straws used to decorate it.  These elephant straws Odeh uses to fill a large space above the females head and it frames the painting by complementing all compositions in it, and also being of the colour white/off white, it adds light to the painting. The colours black and white dominate the painting; the only other time we see a different colour is on the female’s skin. The straws, with the images below the portrait being in the same colour draw the painting together. The extravagance and creativity of the fashion world is also seen through these elephant straws; furthermore it being on the head of a black face may take some viewers back to the stereotypical image of some costumes worn in the past days. The female hair as said is a very soft curly afro, almost like that of a mixed race person but at times even softer and so this easily allowed the twists in her hair for the creation on the head to be made. Patricia is Ibo in origin, from the East of Nigeria, hair like hers is common in her native land.

Her face is a long beautiful and elegant one. She has a defined forehead and eyebrows carefully tweezed to complement the rest of her features including her nose which his long and thin but fits her face. Odeh confessed in this painting he changed her eyes to make it more cat like and by doing this adds a come hither look or sexiness to the face; her eye lashes are defined by one sweep of a brush. The eyes again add to the sleekness talked about earlier on.  Her lips are well positioned underneath her nose; it has the definition and plumpness that makes it that of a black woman lips. Odeh uses a dark purply brown colour to paint her lips. 
Shade covers the back and most of the left side of her face but enough of her features are in view to see why she won the face of Africa. This includes her cheekbones high and defined, the way the fashion industry likes it. Her long face is one that has been greatly admired by the western fashion scene long before her time. Long faces and long necks are also very common in East Africa and it is an image that has been replicated for at least 55 years in the west. The model Iman is an example of these features. The shade engulfs most of her neck but you know it is long. On her brown skin painted by Odeh, his brushstrokes are so fine that on her face you see the highlights of her make up around her eyes, the powder used to highlight her cheekbones and around her nose one sees the make up carefully placed to accentuate all features making her face look as healthy as possible. The cleverness or brilliance of Odeh is in the portrayal of her make-up; making it look so real it is almost like a photograph. It is one thing to be admired in this painting. On her arm too Odeh does well to highlight the undertone of African dark skin: red. He gives the skin a milky appearance, making it seem smooth and soft. She is represented in this portrait as very slim; also ideal for the dominant western fashion industry. She is portrayed in a sleeveless v-neck black dress. What made Odeh paint her was he was proud to see a woman with black skin win the competition and given the chance to represent her people internationally. This is not the only portrayal of Patricia Onuchi Peter Odeh has. According to the painter himself, he has a very large and realistic portrait of Patricia in his studio, it is his centre piece. Additions Odeh made to the popular image he saw included, the couri shell on her forehead, the seashell as her necklace, and the arm bangle on her left arm, to make it look more native; according to Odeh. This is an interesting thing because it shows how, African woman can be placed next to any other woman in the world and not look like she does not fit in. There is a modern image of the African woman. Africa does move with the times just like the rest of the world; but it is not often shown outside Africa.

Next to the portrait on the left are two masks the first being of the Queen mother Idia of Benin. A very famous mask and because it is from a time before slavery in Africa it represents the power women once had more dominantly in Africa. It is a sculpture made out of a bronze so advanced in its making at that time, that today the metal itself cannot be copied; it is not known how it was done. Queen mother Idia is seen in this sculpture to also have a prominent forehead and a long face. Odeh again seems to be emphasising the view that nothing is new but also as if Patricia Onuchi is like a queen in his eyes. The mask with the round eyes is one that represents the Poro Society, a secret society in Benin City according to Odeh, he knows what is trying to portray with that. Both masks have been drawn in like shadings in the paintings to allowing the face of Africa to dominate. It is a painting that celebrates the beauty of an African woman. It shows the grace, precision, and modernity of the African woman. Africa is the only continent I hear of being called mother Africa perhaps it is because both the women and men know that without the women of Africa the continent would not stand so strongly. From Ner-fer-ti-ti to Sheba, to Amina, to Yaa Asantewaa, and to the modern women like Patricia and the standing Liberian president, African women would always be known for their beauty and definitely also for their strength. The African woman and those of the diaspora, have many dimensions which are yet to be explored by non Africans. If the painting is to be criticised for anything it could be said that is not enough subject matter in the painting or perhaps the neck could have been placed in a better composition. Also to praise a woman who has been in a kind of beauty contest too can be seen as slightly controversial due to the negativity surrounding pageant-like shows.

Odeh himself is half Ghanaian, half Nigerian resides mostly in Ghana to paint. He spent four years training and learning to become a painter. He is in his thirties and owns his own company, the Afrocentric Clan.

Traditional Dress: The Kaba and Slit.

The Kaba and Silt one of many Ghanaian traditional dresses, for women.  It is the most popular traditional dress worn by women simply because it looks elegant.

The Kaba a slit originates from the loose tunic like top worn all over Africa since the beginning of time and a loose cloth which women wrapped around their chest or waist and folded at the top to keep it firmly around the body. This wrap cloth evolved into a piece of cloth with strings that made it’s fitting safer. This then transgressed into the sown fitted skirt still with a string at the waist to tighten and loosen it, with a slit either on the bottom back or on the side for room for movement.
The top of the Kaba also evolved and darts were place in the middle to make it more fitted and a zip was placed at the back. An extra piece of cloth called ‘akataso’ in Twi, goes with the Kaba, big enough for a woman to wrap around herself, put over her shoulders to keep her warm, fold into an extra head scarf, or use it to carry a child on their back. 

A Kaba usually is worn by women over 20 years old, for occasions and celebrations like naming ceremonies, parties or funerals.  For special positive celebrations like weddings, Ghanaian women like to wear a Kaba made with ‘Kente’. Kente is a hand weaved fabric of many colours and designs which originates from Ghana. It is centuries old and most of its designs have a meaning. Including the Zig-zag, which represents the split of the Oyoko clan, the royal clan of the Ashanti (pronounced as ‘asan -ti’ not ‘ashanti’), in the late 20th century; members of the clan are now live in different parts of Ghana and the Ivory Coast.  The Kente cloth originates from the Ashanti kingdom and was created by weavers after watching a spider weaving its web. Kente is made with silk and cotton; its beauty has made it very popular around the world, especially with people of African origin. Prints of Kente are now also very popular.
The other special day that Ghanaians like to wear their Kaba is on Sundays. Ghana is dominantly Christian and the people of Ghana like to dress up for Church; a bit like wearing your Sunday best. On the way to the church you see an array of designs and colours; the women looking beautiful. The Kaba is fitted and brings out the classic shape of a woman. I once gazed at a man who was watching some women in their Kaba’s going for an occasion and truly I wished I could help by fanning him; he was getting too hot.  Ghanaian women have immense creativity and are always drawing or describing their own ideas for their Kaba’s. An occasion is an excuse for a new Kaba. Seamstress and tailors are many in Ghana because everyone goes to them with their design and in a few days or weeks their Kaba is ready.  Seamstresses do usually suggest ideas also and there are now many posters available to buy at the market with pictures of the latest Kaba designs. Due to the great creativity of the women, rarely do you see two women wearing the same style Kaba.  

The Kaba has gone through its fashion changes; there are the classic simple designs, like a fitted top and skirt with a variation of necks which will always be around. The fabric, batik, used to create the designs also affects the whole look.  The lists of designs are never ending, an example being in the eighties when it was the time of the power woman. The designs from then are truly worth seeing. They included the bird feather-like sleeves, the pointed sleeves and sides looking like an alien form Mars, the puffed up sleeves so big they seem to engulf the wearer at times, and the belovered shoulder pads. Other bold and brash designs are a wonderful reminder of the eighties. Just imagine the make up, the hair, the colourful prints and these bold designs; the eighties will remain in our hearts for some time to come.  In the nineties the designs became simpler again and in the 2000, the designs are becoming more classic but more creative. Necks are created with numerous amount of styles, from the round, square, v-neck, to a net like neck or even a sleeveless kaba which leaves room for further creative designs at the neck.  Recently the most popular style has been what is called the fish- tale slit. This emerged in early 2004, where the back of the slit(the skirt), was gathered with extra cloth  to leave more room for movement. This has now evolved into the all round fish like bottom; originally started by the Muslim women in Ghana who liked to have more room in their slit. Today sleeves are of a variation of designs and lengths, and designs like frills and shirt like designs have come and gone. World fashions also affect Kaba styles as they inspire designs.

The Nigerian traditional way of dressing has also, become a norm in Ghana. The wearing of laces, the ‘cele’ ,the elaborate and numerous in designs headdress, and the loose style type top with long sleeves which is the traditional way of sewing the Nigerian dress, closest to the Ghanaian Kaba and Slit. Both cultures now pinch ideas form each other and with the growing number of Nigerian living in Ghana, the mixture in a daily preference of traditional dress very common.

When it comes to fabrics for the Kaba, the batik cloth is it.  The colourful batik cloth and its array of designs, from geometric patterns, to birds, plants, music waves, images of people and objects, is truly African. The batique cloth did not originate from Asia as some like to say but from Africa. There are batique style prints dating back to the 11th century in Africa. The arrival of the Portuguese in the 15th Century to Africa to trade, led them to take many the batiks, to sell in Asia. They became so popular in Asia, that Persians(Iranians), Indians, Indonesians an even the Japanese started to copy the prints and create their own designs which the Persians especially were good at doing. The batiks became very popular in England too, it was the time during the reign of Queen Elizabeth the first. The English later demanded the fabrics so much that a ban was put on them in England because those producing it for them, especially in Asia (India) did not have the technology to meet the demands. What a shame because the batik cloth would have been a fabric worldwide worn by now.  The batik cloth is proudly African and this is why African demand for more designs and styles than anywhere else.  Just As it was in the 15th century, the batik cloth is still produced in African, Asian and some European countries and they sell to eachother but mainly to people of African Origin. The copying to designs continues but governments are now trying to stop it as it is costing the designers some of their daily bread. Even the print of Kente on fabrics is now even copied in China!

Top: Kaba and Slit, A mixture of the Ghanaian Kaba and Nigerian Style with a Kente scarf (Ghana).  Bottom: Royal Man in Cloth (Wrapped)

Will the Kaba and Slit ever go out of fashion and be left behind? The answer is, never. More and more designs are being created, more fabrics are being produced. There are now fashion designers in Ghana who only work with the batik fabric and there are more of the youth becoming prouder of their traditions and also wearing the Kaba to say so or other forms of traditional dress. The Kaba can be worn on any occasion as a replacement for the universal style of dress; its versatility also keeps it in the system.

So where do Kaba styles go from here? Well beaded sleeves, sewn onto the sleeves, are delicately emerging into the system. I will not be surprised to see precious stones being used in the same manner. Shifted button lines to the left or right may appear and a play with angles on different parts of the Kaba; like the eighties, but more refined. The creativity of the Ghanaian/African women has no end and this keeps the Kaba and Slit reigning forever.
The first ever Ghana fashion week will be taking place this year, so do look out for it. Visit Ghana to see the live shows; chain shop owners come and place orders for some of the beautiful designs you are bound to see.  From, clothes, to shoes, handbags and much more. Visit Ghana for fashion which can compete with Milan, Paris, London and New York in quality and style.  Ghana is hot at the moment so come and catch a spark at Ghana’s Fashion week; if not you’ll regret it later. 
Anyama Buabeng  05-06-2008

Traditional Wear

The 'Kaba (top) and Slit (the skirt)' - The Origin. The Traditional Dress of Women in Ghana

The answer is one of the mix Ancient Empires of Africa, especially, West Africa, Ghana, Mali, Carthage, Nubia-East and West. “Through trade and civilisation cotton and linen fabrics were being produced by these empires to be mostly worn by the elite, as they had the money hence could afford it. “The route taken by traders of the Maghreb to Ghana started in North Africa in Tahert (Country), coming down through Sjilmasa in Southern Morocco. From there the trail went south and inland, running parallel with the coast, then round to the south-east through Awdaghust and ending up in Kumbi Saleh – the royal town of Ancient Ghana. Inevitably the traders brought Islam with them.” As well as bringing Islam with them Islamic designs created with the use of thread of a variation of colours. Fabrics were being traded off in countries that did not make the specific fabrics, but bought them. An example being Berber (North African) blankets being found in caves in Mali in the 11th century AD.  Cloth was used for a variety of designs including tunic type tops, hats, wraps, to name a few. The origin of the Kaba (top) and Slit (skirt) is of a two piece of cloth that was wrapped around the bottom half of the body to create a skirt and also a sash or tape placed around ones waist to keep the wrap in place. The top half of the Kaba was like a basic Top/ T- Shirt with two openings (slits) on both sides for ease of movement. The evolution of the two piece cloth from just a cloth used to wrap around the base of the body, and the basic top originates from the theory of simply wanting to make the top more fitted and the two piece cloth being sown at the sides to make it into a skirt. Progression of style included darts descending from the middle of either the back, side, or the front of the garment from the bust line through the waist to the hips of the Kaba to make it more fitting and flattering to the female structure. To have the perfect “darts measurement”, a woman’s chest, bust, waist and hip measurement had to be measured in order to get the fit right. The “princess line” is yet another name for a darts system which runs from the arm pits, right under the bust, in a curve on both sides straight down to the hips. Also in the rules of the darts, “normal darts” running in the middle can be converted into a “princess line” dart system.   
The Kaba is worn with an ‘akataso’, a at least a two to three yards of cloth usually wrapped around the waist and used for extra warmth like a shawl, carrying ones baby on the back or even carrying money by tying it in the cloth.  A head dress was also worn, is made out of a metre or two of cloth. So the Kaba is a dress of a three-piece.
The Kaba style design is perhaps unconsciously produced by women all over the world from West Africans to, Greco-Roman women, to the Thai traditional dress. Batik and Tie and Dye cloths are mostly made of cotton, is what is used to sew a Kaba.  The Batik cloth has made its mark so much in Africa that there is a great assumption by some that it is only worn by Africans nowadays. The origin of the batik cloth is African and was taken to Asia by the Portuguese in the 15th century AD, and copied, mass produced, new designs thought of and through trade also sold in Africa very much like the batik trade presently.
Today in Ghana the Kaba is celebrated as much as it was 50 years ago. As one grows the beauty of the fabrics and designs lures one into loving the Kaba and Slit. With a greater awareness and pride in our culture today, Ghanaian women are proud to wear the Kaba and it compliments our women’s figures very well. Also the women like adding their own twist to the designs. New designs are often created, photographed, made into a wall chart and is bought by everyone. Creative ideas come into Kaba designs almost every day.  Some of the popular styles of today are the collar going off the shoulder to create a hand for the top of the Kaba, a short shirt type sleeve, even simply sleeveless with a “V” or round neck (favoured very much by the younger adults). The skirt is either in a panel/fish slit or a slit cut on the side and the traditional slit style remains.  For those wanting some new style ideas how about braiding the sleeveless arms like hair or adding some metal to make the middle even more corset-like to your size please and adding some embroidery (small, very detailed) to the whole of the fitted area from below your bust line downwards; it would look excellent on a plain quality fabric. There is even using jewellery for the sleeves. Remember you read it here first! The versatility of the Kaba is what also makes it well liked; one can wear it to any occasion.  The Kaba and Slit will always keep its basic structure of a ‘skirt and a top’; while numerous ideas are applied to it to create the designs of the Kaba and silt we know today.

Posters of some Kaba Designs. 
 More picutres to come without the blur of a flash light.