There are many European scholars who, in attempting to erase and devalue pre-colonial Afrikan culture, claim that the continent has no long-lasting artistic traditions. Rather, the case is that within Afrika there is little tradition of art for art's sake (as is the character of the majority art of western societies) but instead traditional African art was a functional and necessary part of everyday life. Utilitarian objects such as bowls, stools, chairs, looms, textiles and even buildings were designed with great care so as to beautify daily life as well as to represent and convey certain ideas, values or characteristics desired by the user or viewers. Sculptures also figured prominently in the religious rituals which were a central force in African life giving social cohesion through common belief and participation in ceremonial life. Though the symbols used varied widely between one community and the next, there was generally within a given community a considerable degree of consistency and thus developed a large number of reasonably discreet styles. Though artists did not follow stylistic guidelines blindly and each added their own creativity and individuality to the objects they made, the artists generally worked within defined parameters of acceptability within the culture and thus within a community there was generally a considerable degree of consistency giving rise to a number of distinct artistic traditions. Taking great inspiration from this heritage of functional art, I have created a number of works, including jewellery boxes and an ashtray, and plan to make many more!
osram ne nsoromma
box + heart
The Ghanaian adrinkra symbol 'osram ne nsoromma' means 'the moon and the star' and features stylized icons of these celestial bodies. In Akan culture, the imagery represents faithfulness and love and reflects the harmony that exists in the bonding between a man and a woman. The related proverb, "kyekye pe aware", translates to convey the idea that 'The North Star has a deep llove for marriage. She is always in the sky waiting for the return of the moon, her husband'. This jewellery box utlises and celebrates this imagery, alongside patterns inspired by the bogolan textiles of Mali. Inside the box, a painted heart is adorned with the symbol and associated qualities it conveys.
The Ghanaian proverb 'se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi' roughly translates to 'it is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten'. This spirit of celebration and reclamation of lost heritage is encapsualted in this jewellery box featuring the Adinkra symbol synonymous with the proverb. Surrounded by patterns inspired by Malian fabric prints, the Sankofa bird looks back to inspect the silhouette of the continent as it stands upon an open book, emphasising the importance of a strong foundation of historical and cultural knowledge.
This hexagonal jewellery box is again based on the textile patterns of Malian bogolan cloth, featuring various arrangements of diamonds, triangles and dots in a colour scheme of black, white, and two shades of orange. The interior is divided into six triangular chambers, each painted in colours analogous to those on top of the lid and with black and gold borders.
natural mystic ashtray
This piece is based on an earlier two-dimensional painting entitled 'Natural Mystic' which was one of the first appearances of my Unknown Dread character. For this ashtray decoration I have borrowed and adapted several elements from the compostion of that earlier work, prominently featuring the ites gold and green, as well as clouds of white smoke with green details and the figure of the Dread character seated in a position of meditation.
This patchwork Afrikan print beanbag chair cover came about as the most fun, creative and cost-effective means of revitalising an old, boring and leaking beanbag chair. The different pieces of fabric which have been stitched together were all offcuts from earlier textile work, and so you may recognise many of the patterns from outfits created from the same material. The finished product is mad comfortable, and the vibrant Afrikan patterns definitely suit my studio space much better than the plain black