By John Owoo
(At the Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City – Accra)
Young artist Serge Attukwei Clottey is indeed a wild maverick – he seems to re-invent himself for each new performance – and undeniably, he is daringly brilliant.
His latest performance, dubbed “My Mother’s Wardrobe”, marked the formal opening of Gallery 1957. Located within the Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City in Accra, it is set to stimulate the art scene with refreshing installations, works and performances.
“My Mother’s Wardrobe”, which comprised male and female models wearing clothes of Clottey’s late mother, is a symbolic testament to his mother while exploring the narratives of personal, family and collective histories.
Grieving for his late mother, Clottey alongside other muscular young men and women, arrive at the premises of the hotel in a wooden “trotro” loaded with discarded plastic gallons. Fully clad in colourful clothes left by his mother, they promptly move in well-coordinated movements and gestures alongside the plastic gallons.
With his mother’s death, Clottey came to realize the numerous sacrifices his mother had made and paid tribute through her copious Kaba clothes as he dealt with the issue of mortality, while considering them as a tangible expression of an irreversible loss.
Indeed, the cross dressing equally symbolizes a subtle protest of gender imbalances that is largely inherent in some traditional forms and societies. As the models move in unison, one can feel some form of activism bordering on politics and religion.
With powdered faces / chests and huge plastic bags known locally as “Ghana Must Go” hanging on their shoulders, they pose alongside the gallons, which he employs in large-scale installations to draw attention to the issue of preserving and protecting the environment.
Clottey has over the years been engaged with “Afrogallonism” – a term he explains as an artistic concept aimed at exploring the relationship between the prevalence of yellow oil gallons as regards to consumption and necessity in the life of the modern African.
“My Mother’s Wardrobe” is a result of Clottey’s residency with ANO Cultural Research Platform in Accra, whose remit is to uncover hidden, alternative, personal and collective histories, which make up what is now known as Ghana.
He has participated in several group and solo exhibitions including, The Kampnagel, Hamburg (2015), Intelligentsia Gallery, Beijing (2015), The Mistake Room, Los Angeles (2015), 27th Festival Les Instants Vidéo, Marseille (2014), WUK, Wien (2014), Mohr-Villa, Munich (2014), Ozwald Boateng, London (2014) and 11th Dak Art, Dakar (2014).
The rest are Nubuke Foundation, Accra (2014), Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2012), The Drum Ace Café, Birmingham (2010) and AfriCAM, Napoli (2009). Clottey has also been an artist in residencies at ANO Centre for Cultural Research Accra (2015–2016) and Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna (2013).
Gallery 1957 has evolved from over fifteen years of private collecting by construction entrepreneur Marwan Zakhem. With an initial curatorial focus on contemporary Ghanaian art, the gallery will present a programme of exhibitions, installations and performances by the region’s most significant artists.
Pictures by Regula Tschumi