The two wood and paint works entitled Atsiaƒu ƒe agbo nu (Gateway to the Sea) and Dusiadu (EveryTown), were initially commissioned for the Folkestone Triennial in 2021 and are named in the Ewe language, spoken mainly in West Africa.
Atsiaƒu ƒe agbo nu was designed to provoke a reflection on immigration and emigration and provide a colourful contrast to the architectures of control usually found at borders. Its new home at Loughborough on Shirley Pearce Square, close to the pedestrian entrance from Epinal Way marks a transition from the town to campus (and vice versa).
The five hut-like structures of Dusiadu are inspired by West African vending kiosks. They were described by Kwami as creating ‘a conversation in architectural space', which passers-by are invited to join.
Both works share Kwami’s interest in vernacular structural, material and decorative forms, and are inspired by his desire to ‘transform ordinary objects into magnificence'. They give sculptural form to many of the ideas explored in his 2011 book Kumasi Realism 1951-2007: An African Modernism, which rejects the treatment of African culture as rooted in ‘tradition’ against a Euro-American ‘modernity’.
Kwami was born in Accra, Ghana, in 1956, and produced a large body of paintings, sculptures, prints and publications across four decades. He received a PhD from the Open University in 2007, which formed the basis of Kumasi Realism, and taught in Nigeria and Ghana.
After meeting the printmaker Pamela Clarkson-Kwami in the early nineties he divided his time between Ghana’s second city Kumasi and Loughborough, where he held a studio at Modern Painters, New Decorators. His work has been shown at galleries around the world and can be found in the collections of the National Museum of Ghana, the V&A, the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington D.C., The National Museum of Kenya, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the British Museum.
Shortly before his death he designed stained glass windows for the National Cathedral of Ghana and was awarded the prestigious Maria Lassnig Prize, which will result in a new public mural and monograph in association with London’s Serpentine Gallery.
More information on the University’s sculpture collection, including an interactive map.