Atta Kwami Colloquium


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  • Host Department: History of Art
  • Date: 01/26/2011
  • Time: 4:00PM - 6:00PM

  • Location: 180 Tappan Hall
    855 S. University, Ann Arbor, MI

  • Atta Kwami

    Atta Kwami at the Howard Scott Gallery in Chelsea.

  • Description: Western approaches to Africa’s visual culture have until recently separated ‘traditional’ from ‘modern’ as if the two categories had no common ground, and as if only the former was authentically African. Yet ‘tradition’ is also an active process of handing on, one subject to evolution, development and history.

    This lecture explores a burgeoning body of West African artistic production that draws upon photography, advertising, graphic design, European art history and Ghanaian history and culture. As such it constitutes an envisioning of a local modernity centered upon Kumasi, a vibrant trading city at the centre of local, national and international networks, whether historical, economic, political, educational, religious or aesthetic. The art described here, whatever its immediate purpose, reflects and interprets this intense and unique local context. Among the Ghanaian painters discussed are E.V. Asihene, Grace Kwami, E.K.J. Tetteh, Ablade Glover, Ato Delaquis, B. Offei Nyako, Atta Kwami, Karikacha Seidou, Bob Acheampong and many others whose practice was academy-based. The lecture will also consider the art and lives of Kumasi’s leading “street artists” (sign painters)—King Samino (King Samino Sign Art Services), Alex Amofa (Supreme Art Works), Kwame Akoto (Almighty God Art Works), Isaac Azey Otchere (Azey Alberto Art & Sign Service), and Isumaila Moro (Iss Hi-Tech Prints) –– thereby exploring the interrelationship of two entwined traditions, two art worlds of modern painting centered at either the university and/or the sign-painter’s workshop.

    Leading Ghanaian artist and academic Atta Kwami was born in Accra in 1956 and lives in the country’s second city, Kumasi. He was most recently a senior lecturer in the Department of Painting & Sculpture at KNUST College of Art. His vibrant abstract paintings and installations draw on the visual culture of Ghana, in particular the street painters of his home city. He has exhibited widely around the world and been invited by universities and other arts institutions as a visiting lecturer.