Akutia: Blindfolding the Sun and the Poetics of Peace (A Retrospective of Agyeman Ossei ‘Dota’), co-curated by Adwoa Amoah, Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh and Tracy Naa Koshie Thompson at SCCA Tamale and Red Clay.
Akutia: Blindfolding the Sun and the Poetics of Peace is a retrospective exhibition which traces the lifework of dynamic Ghanaian artist, dramatist, and educator Agyeman Ossei (Dota) to its earliest days in the 1980s. Remaining true to the artist’s irreverent attitude to art, the exhibition amplifies the dialogic relations between the linguistic, structural, and formal elements operative in Ossei’s work— inspired by Asante proverbial culture and philosophy, folk/Highlife music, and poetry translated via collage, drama, literature, painting, sculpture, video, and new media.
As an artist whose aesthetic and cultural sensibilities have been shaped as much by formal education as by the “farmers and so called bums” he encountered during the inspired “Koforidua years” in the early 1990s, Ossei experimentally weaves a secular linkage between the traditional, modernist and extra-modernist elements evidenced in his practice.
“It then becomes crucial that if we are to use our artistic training to reflect collective community aspirations, then our artistic messages must be decently obscured; ‘The knowledge of the kingdom is revealed to you but to others they come by means of parables’. So as artists, you are the acknowledged eye and conscience of society and it is important to communicate wisely so that your counsel or criticism is taken in good faith and not considered offensive. In this respect, the subsequent interactive discourse between my work, my mother and I, however metaphysical are very revealing.
One day when she came I had painted ‘Aboa bi beka wo a, efiri wo ntoma mu’ and after relating the title to her she chuckled at the image of the mother breastfeeding a child. I am sure the import of the message had not totally hit home as there was an ambiguity in the sarcasm of who was doing the biting. Given that it was the child whose mouth was at the flesh of the mother, it was possible that if any biting had to be done, it would most likely come from the child but by the next day there was no ambivalence in intent. ‘Akokɔ baatan nan tia ba, enkum ba’ hung directly opposite the doorway where she stood. “How many children are there?” she asked.
But that did not receive a response from me and once she had counted them herself and figured that they tallied with her number of children, the communication was complete. She said; “Yoo”, shut the door and that was the last of her early morning visits. I guess for us in the humanities, such is the nature of the ‘Knot’ we must untie or undo. The attitudes and the dogmas that accompany university education probably enslave us rather than liberate us.” — Agyeman Ossei. Excerpted from Art and Autobiography: A Personal Narrative and National Identity. Colloquium Faculty of Painting and Sculpture Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and TechnologyApril 6, 2005. Kumasi.