By John Owoo
(Accra – Ghana)
An exhibition of works by designer coffin maker Paa Joe and visual / performance artist Elisabeth Efua Sutherland that explore specific funeral practices among Ga and Fante communities in Ghana is closing at Gallery 1957 in Accra.
The exhibition, which ends on Friday January 12, focuses on the imaginary passing of a child. Evidently, they present death as a journey mediated through water while considering the trisection of the unborn, living and the dead.
It effectively interconnects Sutherland’s contemporary banners with the distinctive woodworks of Paa Joe – and forcefully builds on emerging practice in the annals of Ghanaian contemporary art, which tend to champion interdisciplinary and multigenerational contemporary collaboration.
Indeed, these exhibitions and practices have been challenging traditional and structural definitions of art with highly resonant exhibitions, performances, seminars and workshops that have provoked and excited art lovers in Accra and beyond.
Undeniably, groundbreaking exhibitions by blaxTARLINES (Kumasi), Gallery 1957, ANO Institute of Contemporary Art, Nubuke Foundation, Archi Afrika Design and Architecture Gallery and the Chale Wote Street Art Festival (Accra) have attracted rave reviews in the international media.
Noted for large-scale wooden caskets that persuasively imitate the shapes of various animals, totems, cars, aircrafts, cellphones, beer bottles, foot wear among others, Paa Joe’s colourful coffins equally help transport the departed in a fashionable and flamboyant way.
He has exhibited in diverse countries across the globe including Brooklyn Museum (New York, USA), V&A (London, UK) and Centre Pompidou (Paris, France) among others. His works form part of the collections of several museums including the British Museum in London, UK.
Sutherland is increasingly concerned with interactivity, video, sculpture and texture in making performance/performative objects. She is interested in the way culture can shape identity and development and the impact that active cultural curation can potentially have on individual and national attitudes.
Currently the Artistic Director of Accra Theatre Workshop and a former resident at the Villa Empain (Belgium) and the Harn Museum of Art (University of Florida, USA) she will be working on the second phase of “The Interstice Project” (Black Box), which is an expansion of a shipping container studio project.