By John Owoo
(In Accra – Ghana)
Gazing through its transparent glass doors, I harbor diverse visualizations as to what is in store from Ghanaian artist Elizabeth Efua Sutherland at Gallery 1957, a premium art space located within the premises of the plush Kempinski hotel in Accra.
I am immediately confronted with twelve head sculptures encased in glass with grass spurting out of the lips of some of them. They appear similar yet they are completely distinct in their own right as I take a critical look.
An overwhelming feeling of pleasure engulfs me as I walk around a maze of white heads encircled by plants, which Sutherland had installed in the rather spacious and well-lighted gallery.
While feasting my eyes I remember why I am here – and I quickly notice the evocative qualities of material, form and weight of these sculptures that translate into potent sculptures. Undeniably, these images will definitely remain in the minds of viewers for a long time.
Titled “Aya”, the exhibition honours the rites of reflection, endurance and meditation while recalling the skills of ancient Akan female potters, who in ancient times cast terra cotta heads in commemoration of the dead.
Sutherland employs layers of white clay, plaster, white cement and red earth alongside a curious blend of deploying industrial and natural material in the alchemical process of casting. Although, they are largely from the same mould, each of the heads possess a discrete identity, which she achieves by cracking, carving, traumatizing and other forms of manipulation.
With a rather progressive, courageous and radical approach, the artist revisits the relationship between earth, humanity and heritage while exploring how the environment could spiritually and physically shape identity and legacy.
Sutherland has a BA Theatre with a minor in Education Studies from DePauw University (USA) and an MA in Contemporary Performance Making from Brunel University (UK). She works across theatre and performance art and is currently concerned with interactivity, video, sculpture and texture in making performance / performative objects.
The exhibition ends on Saturday February 15, 2020.