Arts of Africa

Friday, November 11, 2011

This week I am honestly unsure about what to write. I decided that since we have been looking at contemporary African art that I would do a search of my own and find an artist that I am interested in and write about that.

The artist that I found is El Anatsui. He was born in 1944 in Ghana. Below is just a part of an artist statement that he gave.

About six years ago I found a big bag of liquor bottle tops apparently thrown away in the bush. At the time I was searching for a pot monument (pillars of stacked pots, each of which represents a bereavement in the village) that I had seen decades before in that locality. I kept the bottle caps in the studio for several months until the idea eventually came to me that by stitching them together I could get them to articulate some statement. When the process of stitching got underway, I discovered that the result resembled a real fabric cloth. Incidentally too, the colours of the caps seemed to replicate those of traditional kente cloths. In effect the process was subverting the stereotype of metal as a stiff, rigid medium and rather showing it as a soft, pliable, almost sensuous material capable of attaining immense dimensions and being adapted to specific spaces.

El Anatsui is an African artists that mentioned stereotypes in his artist statement. Able to see that his work is not as politically or culturally deep as some of the artists we have looked at, it still is visually appealing and has cultural ties.
I found it interesting to read a statement that he talks about a stereotype. While many of the artists we have talked about including Yinka and Fani-Kayode deal with larger issues of gender, culture, and sexual stereotypes and the limits it places on them as artists, El Anatsui seems to
deal with manipulating material more than anything else. Many times these objects have links to history and people.
He is changing the viewers idea about metal in the picture below.
Many of us think of everyday object in only one way. El Anatsui is able to see objects in many different ways and in ways that will make on think differently about an object the next time they see it. For instance he will use metal cans or liquor caps and sew them together and turn them into a cloth like piece of work. He also said that many times these cloth like pieces resemble kente cloth.

Personally I would love to see on of his works up close. I would like to take a look at the individual pieces and how they are put together and then i would like to step back and see the larger picture. I would like to understand why he chose the certain pieces of metal and what connections they have with him and his surroundings or history.
I was unable to view the collection at Waterloo Center for the Arts. When I arrived this morning they said they had taken down their pieces Thursday afternoon in preparation for an Art Festival. I would have liked to see these pieces up close and also see how the center displayed them as well as label them.


  1. I'm glad you chose to write about a contemporary artist we haven't studied in class. I had never heard of El Anatsui and it's interesting to read about the work he creates. I would also love to see his work up close. I'm sure pictures don't do them justice, much like the Haitian art collection.

  2. Very cool--I appreciate your bringing this in. I also think his work is powerful because it is reusing and reclaiming in the visual language of Asante what had been thrown away. Garbage (and waste management) is a huge issue throughout Africa.

  3. I have never heard of El Anatsui, however I am glad that you chose to write your blog about this because I find these works of art very interesting. Its definitely a different style than what we have seen in class. I can't even image how much time he spends putting these works together!

  4. Great post. I like that you brought in a new artist. I think the best thing about this work is how he says that we place a stereotype on metal. It really speaks to what stereotyping does, it reduces the person or thing you are stereotyping to a simple object. I would also love to see this up close!