By Dr. Bernard Akoi-Jackson
(In Tamale –
The Savannah Centre for Contemporary Art (SCCA) in Tamale
is honoured to debut its programming with the exhibition: “Galle Winston Kofi
Dawson: In Pursuit of something ‘Beautiful’, perhaps…”.
The exhibition, which opens on Friday March 15, is a retrospective on the work of Ghanaian modernist Kofi Dawson (b. 1940) who coined the term Afro-Journalism to describe his socially committed art practice. “Galle Winston Kofi Dawson: In Pursuit of something ‘Beautiful’, perhaps…” charts the complex trajectory of an artist whose body of works stretches across a multiplicity of forms including serigraphy, etching, wood cut, ink and line drawing, acrylic and oil painting, collage, sculpture and installation.
A potentially turbulent period
spanning more than fifty years of incredible dedication to artistic innovation,
experimentation and political resolve is encapsulated in the curatorial
selection of objects and texts. Whilst the greater portion of the exhibited
works is selected from Dawson’s own holdings, a significant number is loaned or
borrowed from a fair sampling of his collector base in Ghana.
Kofi Dawson’s multifaceted drawings, paintings, prints
and objects, as well as his perplexing texts are saturated archives, which are
typical examples of his Afro-Journalism. They become likened to crystalline
portents that delicately weave vast realms for curious minds to probe.
In a piece of drawing or painting, we experience a
density of hatches, cross-hatches; a skillful configuration of optical space
and form. The unsettling straightforwardness of subject matter may sometimes be
foiled by witty double takes that offer a visual spectacle as though one is
holding up a diamond to the light. The experience is sublime.
Kofi Dawson’s life and work
effectively condense an attitude of tenacity characteristic of a modernist
ethos and openness to uncertainty that drives contemporary life. Despite his
potentially gigantic stature in the Ghanaian context and the fact that he has
participated in a tall list of local and international workshops, seminars,
residencies and exhibitions across the West African region and elsewhere,
Dawson has remained, to quite a large extent, very independent of the
international art world.
This can be attributed in part, to the dearth of a robust
institutional support system for (Contemporary) art in Ghana, and on the other
hand, to his enigmatic disposition in relation to the art world. He
participates enthusiastically, even to obsessive levels within the Ghanaian Art
scene, attending exhibition openings, contributing work to group exhibitions,
facilitating or taking part in workshops. At such events, whether it is an art
exhibition, talk or seminar, as an ardent participant, Dawson is constantly
making copious notes.
But when it comes to issues of self-promotion or
pseudo-artistic posturing, he is extremely distant from the scene. A fair
amount of his artistic output has been collected, bought or donated and can be
found in a number of notable collections. It is out of this massive legacy that
we make humble selections to share with the world.
The SCCA is an artist run project space, exhibition and
research hub, cultural repository and artists’ residency. It is an initiative
of world-renowned Ghanaian artist, Ibrahim Mahama, as a contribution towards
the development and expansion of the contemporary art scene in Ghana.
SCCA-Tamale intends, with its diverse programming and research interests, to
spotlight significant moments in Ghanaian and international art in a communal
Affiliated to blaxTARLINES KUMASI, the Centre is operated
by committed, dedicated and generous persons who produce critical discourse
that will eventually be disseminated through exhibitions, publications and
allied activities. SCCA is dedicated to art and cultural practices, which
emerged in the 20th Century and inspire generations of artists and thinkers of
the 21st Century and beyond.
Join us on Friday March 15 to celebrate the life and work of Galle Winston Kofi Dawson, a gem of modernist Ghanaian art and probably one of the harbingers of the contemporary ethos.
Dr. Akoi-Jackson is curating the exhibition.
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