By Antonia Bamford
Michealis School of Fine Art
University of Cape Town
Whisked away in a ‘Tro Tro’ in true Ghanaian style is the way to travel across Accra, the busy capital of Ghana. First stop was to see the great wood and cement sculpture works by Alex Sefah Twerefour.
On entering this hidden cave of such incredible, intricate and somewhat magical, mysterious but also monumental space, I am amazed by giant works that have taken over his snug studio space. Sefah Twerefour has over the past four years been sculpting full time after his retirement as Director of the Centre for National Culture in Accra.
His works are mainly in woodwork form and tend to take natural shapes that he says “speak out to him” [Sefah-Tee, 2015]. This is his approach to the commission he may do for my final exhibition as part of my “Honors in Curatorship” at the Michaelis School of Art, Cape Town, South Africa.
Most of the wood he says is collected from the bush and all varying in forms. Some used for the drums [acacia], some very soft [nim tree] and some that was naturally very decorative which formed the snake sculpture, measuring over 12 metres, which was actually the roots of a tree [mahogany].
After visiting this extraordinary palace, not only was it inspiring having been exposed to so many varieties of wood but it also made me want to further my career as an artist, to allow his work to breath and feel a lot freer, which I hope Cape Town will satisfy these needs.
Sefah Twerefour’s studio taught me a lot about the powerful language wood develops into forming the sculptures. In a similar way theorist Michael Foucault would say, “the arts of existence but techniques of the self”. [Foucault, 1958:54] These techniques and strategies of carving I had learnt appeared useful in the next visit to Fontomfrom Furniture Collections.
What a breathtaking welcome I received at Osei Adjekum’s workshop of abstract tables. These showed something truly unique and all from local sources around Accra, whatever the shape or size of wood – it had a creative use.
Adjekum guided me around his personally built home, including a spare guest lodge, which could easily be a 5 star guest lodge – pure, beautiful granite stone shower and exquisite mosaics to perfect the finish. Oh and forgetting to mention the bamboo doors and fittings. This is somewhere I would advise anyone to go and catch a good nights rest away from the hustle and bustle of Accra.
Finally, but not yet the final for my project research we paid a visit to Eric Adjetey Anang, who’s decorative / designer coffins again are something completely new to the aesthetic eye. These are objects of importance and to remember ones life – for instance, the football boot for the professional players, or the guitar to pay tribute to the musician.
His current build is a lobster for a local, well-known and loved fisherman. Although his presence will be truly lost, he will be remembered and rest within what he loved doing. I questioned Eric about designing a spoon shaped coffin for me, one that would be suitable to transport over to South Africa. This may put another spanner in the works [excuse the pun].
To finish off the day and as the rain began to fall we stopped at the Artists Alliance Gallery, again a never-ending experience of so many traditional art forms. It was so madly unorganized for a curator, and gave me the want to regulate the organization of space but hey at least there’s the space to house some works.
Together with this, the 4th floor exhibited contemporary works of Nigerian artists. I came away with a poster of the Adinkra symbols cloth and a patchwork rug made of different materials – something to remember such a fantastic day.
Many thanks to arts reporter John Owoo for guiding me around the crazy city of Accra, I would not have been able to navigate around the “tro tro” service, speak twi and certainly not know where to go for a relaxing and refreshing beverage. I will be back soon.