Beauty from Chaos
(Art exhibition on the abuse of Women and Girls)
1) Why did you choose to employ the use of jute sacks for your commissions rather than canvas?
I will answer this in two folds. Most of my works have been done on canvas so I was hoping to explore other options. I decided to use jute sacks through sheer coincidence. I stumbled on it when I was rummaging a store house. Instantly, I was drawn to its rather seemingly odd and unique aesthetic. I imagined what pieces I could produce on such rough and ‘’questionable’’ texture. As an African Contemporary artist, I wandered how it could serve contemporary art, other forms of art as well as how it could ultimately express my ideas holistically to art enthusiasts as well as the general public and align with the general ethos of my message. With time as I deliberated on several themes I could explore with these sacks, I wanted to further inform my curiosity on art and how as artists, we are able to envision beauty from ‘’rubbish’’ and make them a reality.
In trying to juxtapose this idea to the use of the jute sack which connected to the theme, ‘’ Beauty from Chaos’’ was birthed. This helped me to value the importance, perspective and what true beauty really meant and relating it to the context of rubbish or garbage. So, I played out varied scenarios on how I could effectively portray beauty from a seemingly chaotic situation and to ultimately bless others.
During this period, I gained great insights from the Bible about the creation story in Genesis. It shows us how after God had created all things decided to create man to have dominion over everything. Out of everything He had created, He decided to create man out of dust. Replaying this very familiar story sounded very intriguing to me. This sense of meaning spurred the desire to create beauty from what many perceived as ‘’ rubbish’.
Through this work, I want individuals to see and truly appreciate the beauty even in the midst of their varied chaotic lives, challenges and difficulties. I hope that these pieces will exude a beauty they can identify with and a voice which will fill their lives with hope, peace and healing.
Secondly, I wanted to explore another artistic aspect of it. Per the use of the jute sack, the general theme relates to people of all race, wealth and class. For instance, a cocoa farmer with his cocoa seeds in jute sacks, seeks out buyers to purchase his produce which is then used to produce chocolate which travels round the whole consumer chain till it finally reaches the consumer. It shows that even in our diversity in status or class, we are ‘’equal’’ in many ways and so it is with how beauty is perceived and measured, how abuse can affect anyone no matter ones’ status or class; children, men and women and it is important we all make a commitment to raise awareness and to extend help to others.
2) How do you feel about hosting your debut solo exhibition. Though you have been part of other exhibitions with other artists, what makes this different for you and what effect has it had on you?
Honestly, I would say it’s been an exciting and amazing feeling. In solo exhibitions, people get to appreciate your work much more than in collaborations where we are all ‘’clamoring’’ for attention. When it’s a solo project, you are able to carefully explain your focal points on the theme, address their questions and concerns among others. Preferably, I will choose to do solo exhibitions which will afford me the opportunity to focus more on my pieces and what I would want to relay to people to the minute aspects of all my abstract details among others.
3) What would you say has been your most difficult challenge during this project?
I have had to conduct intense research in undertaking this project; getting my facts among others. Another challenge was being able to fuse the reality of the stories I heard and being able to depict it appropriately to suit my style of art and ultimately telling the personal stories of individuals who went through these situations. I strongly believe that was what people felt during the exhibition that even got them all emotional. During one of the sessions, a lady got overwhelmed with emotion as she realized the intensity of the work and the story behind it.
For me, I believe trying to get the audience to carry the burden or literally walk in the shoes of these victims and portraying it as I did was essential to highlight the intricacies of these stories, the adverse effects on society and how they inadvertently affect society. I didn’t seek to create flamboyant pieces but rather ones that showed abuse in simple yet abstract ways. Creating that imagination of someone’s hardship and pain and having to transfer that into visuals or in a creative way to send a message was a challenge especially the contrast between the detailed graphics and the concepts developed for the artworks.
4)How did you deal with the stories you heard? How were you able to compose yourself to accept these stories and translate them through your voice?
There were a lot of emotions but I cannot limit it to a specific one. With different people opening up to me on several stories they had kept mute over for several years and months, it left in me in a state of anger; not at the victims but the perpetrators. I decided to focus on what could be done to create a solution rather than allow emotions to cloud my judgment.
5) Will you describe yourself as a feminist in relation to what your exhibition seeks to address on child and women abuse?
Personally, feminism encompasses an expansive movement. Addressing the effects of abuse has been my resolve to contribute my quota to changing lives and national development. I am a Ghanaian, an artist and a Christian; my resolve is to speak through my brush strokes and change lives void of race or gender. I’m an artist who wants to use art to address core issues and hopefully not just address them alone but then provide healing to many that encounter my work.
6) Do you think education can be the primary tool to address the issue of child abuse?
Education is definitely one of the major tools. Someone shared a story of a young girl in her neighborhood who was repeatedly abused by various people. Sometimes, we tend to be ruled by our emotions rather than the reality to the extent that people accept being beaten by their partners because they feel its all part of love and a form of scolding when one goes wrong which is really absurd. In another narration, I heard a story of a seven-year-old girl who was abused by her mother’s boyfriend every time they went to his place because the woman was always drunk. It happened for a long time till at a point, the girl had been crippled by it. Through further probing, the young girl said that he had warned her not to mention a word to anyone else he will kill her. This scenario shows you the level of illiteracy with respect to some of these issues around us and how perpetrators continue to live freely in a society that sort of supports double standards. Some of these issues I heard have stemmed from the context of spirituality whereby something beyond them is getting them to do such abusive acts. This is a really dicey school of thought. Notwithstanding, people need to be educated on all these fronts. Education also means empowering girls to be bold, assertive and be courageous to speak on such issues once they arise. Girls should be made to understand the meaning of “love” and not be exploited by individuals who will lure them with material things just to get their attention or those who will abuse them.
Notwithstanding, boys need to be educated as well on child abuse. Such education could prove crucial towards their decision making when faced with such challenges or temptations on issues of sexuality for example. In some instances, boys who get abused at a young age tend to have psychological problems and these effects might take long to heal. They may end up being forced to replicate that same abusive behavior towards other boys or even young girls because of what they had to go through themselves growing up. I believe art has a way of educating them and that’s why I am very passionate in using art to engage individuals into starting these conversations and providing them with requisite knowledge on these issues.
7) What do you intend to do with the proceeds from the sale of the artworks?
Part of the proceeds will be used to support the initiatives of The Heart to Heart Foundation and Girls Unashamed Ministries. There are silent bids happening in the pipeline. Owing to the great feedback we have received, I feel it is important to hold unto the artworks and still spread the message to afford many more people the chance to see it. There are a lot of things to factor with these things but so far, sales have been relatively great.
8) Do you feel that your kind of art will appeal to the rural folks and a possible target market?
Art is a form of expression interpreted in various forms. The more abstract a work of art is, the more complicated it is to understand and appreciate. My artwork has a specific target market who can interpret, understand and relate to the story.
For example, someone who came to the event was able to understand the meaning of the work though he’s not an art enthusiast. He then expressed his desire to go on and conduct some advocacy work for the cause. It is important to be able to know specifically who you want your artwork to be sold to. Taking your art to certain places could make it difficult for the people there to understand your message though it might be addressing their pressing needs. Presentation is in an integral part of art.
9) What advice will you give to other young artists on the need to use their talents to help our society in providing solutions and making the world a better place?
Art truly comes from the heart and not everyone is possibly called to do a specific thing. I have been greatly inspired by some artists who didn’t use art for any social causes. It is essential that all of us find our purpose, practice hard work and seek direction from God. It’s a unique path and a step by step process towards discovering their true self and what they are most passionate about. The challenge and responsibility is to find your own path.