The exhibition My Mother’s Wardrobe comprises a series of works inspired by the aftermath of the death of the artist Serge Attukwei Clottey’s mother, overlaying narratives of personal, family and collective histories.
According to custom in many parts of Ghana, a person’s wardrobe is locked up for a year after their death then released to relatives, often leaving the person’s offspring with little or nothing of the material memory of that person, especially as in the case of the artist, if he is an only son with no sisters.
Textiles and materials in Ghana, and other parts of West Africa, — each weft, line or mark — are potent carriers of memory, of communication, and the artist weaves into his sculptures subtle traces of loss, remembering, and of rebirth.
In form, Clottey draws on the interplay of the international and local, incorporating the universal and recurring theme of the barcode alongside the aesthetic structure of Ga Kpanlago rhythms, commenting on the enduring discourse of waxprint’s local demand and international production, from Indonesia to Holland to China.
Abstracting his environment, into monuments such as The Independence Arch, and the Jamestown and Labadi beachscapes so prevalent in his early paintings and current sculptural installations, the pieces, like the cloth they draw on, take on subtle semantic and communicative tones, there if you know where and how to look.
The exhibition is accompanied by a performance on Independence Day, March 6th, that will expand on some of the themes of the exhibition, the personal brought into the collective, the feminine aspects of protest, and of becoming. Men and women dressed in their mothers’ wardrobes, reaffirming the quieter role of the feminine in the often masculinised, bombastic, conflict-driven narratives of history; honouring women as collectors and custodians of those cloths that act as markers of time and change, both in collective ways: documenting aesthetically the various political events of the country, and the changes in social values, from visual proverbs to symbols of technology, telephones, televisions, computers; as well as in personal ways: celebrating in colour and form the many stages of a person’s life, from birth to death.
The exhibition is a result of a residency with ANO, whose remit is to uncover some of the hidden and alternative, personal and collective histories, that make up what is now known as Ghana. Serge Attukwei Clottey’s is the first in a series of exhibitions under the Creative Directorship of ANO that look to expand the notion of exhibitions within a closed, limited space, and to that end, each exhibition I curate at Gallery 1957 will have an iteration in a public space, a lagoon, marketplace, on billboards, in town squares, as well as an accompanying research exhibition at ANO with a publication and film that will look into the elements and trajectories of each artist’s work as well as the deeper contexts from within which they stem, thus creating multiple layers of resonance and engagement.
Nana Oforiatta Ayim
Founder of ANO Centre for Cultural Research