Friday 16 September 2011

El Anatsui, Romuald Hazoume and Owusu Ankomah

Slave trade bicentenary….
From Courage to Freedom

(First published Feb 25- 27, 2007)

SOME events are pleasant, others are horrendous to revisit. Which ever way it goes, memories have to be made of our past.
One of the most devastating periods in the history of Africa, the obnoxious trade in humans takes centre stage in the United Kingdom in few weeks time as the bicentenary of the abolition of Trans Atlantic slave trade is marked by the British government.
  As part of the activities to mark the 200 year that the then British Parliament outlawed slave trade, one of the leading  art house in the country, The October Gallery, in London stages an art exhibition which showcases works of three African artists, reflecting the mood of the event.

Audience viewing Ramuald's work during the exhibition
  The art exhibition entitled, From Courage to Freedom features works of the sculptor and lecturer at the University of Nigeria, Nzukka, Professor El Anatsui; Porto Novo, Republic of Benin-born painter and sculptor, Romuald Hazoume and Germany based Ghanaian artist, Owusu Ankomah. The over two month long symbolic art event, which opens on Thursday February 22 ends on April 28, 2007.
  For Anatsui and Hazoume, their profiles as artists well known in works that liken the social behavioural pattern of today with the slave trade period, must have earned them double in the bicentenary event. While the show at the October Gallery is on, the two artists are also billed to be part of another related art exhibition,  Uncomfortable Truths holding at the British Museum.
  Anatsui is expected to extend his cloth series of flattened liquor botttle tops and woods, sewn into sculpture of metal and wooden clothings respectively. As the  event of this magnitude surfaces, one wonders if the artist saw this period coming. During one of his past presentations of the cloth series, the professor of sculpture draws reference to the history of liquor and cloths as items that were traded for slavery by the European slave masters and their African collaborators. 

El-Anatsui's huge fabric sculpture

  Hazoume, also a mixed media artist whose recent work of installation on the jerry can and petrol syndrome focused on the self enslavement of his people is presenting paintings and photographs of significant slave sites at the bicentenary exhibition. One of the photo works expected at the show presents a slave site in Porto Novo, though in its current state, from which slave ships were said to have departed for Europe.
  For Ankomah, his paintings on canvas takes off from Ghana with adikra signs to related subjects in New York and Brazil as one of the paintings entitled Free simply says it all.
  At the period when the voice for reparation for Africa is almost silent, the 200th anniversary of the 1807 abolition of slave trade act being organised by the British government is not enough to massage frayed nerves of Africans on the injustice done to the continent during the period in question.
  In 1791,  British parliamentarian, William Wilberforce first presented a bill on the abolition of slave trade to the House of Common, but was not passed into law untill 1805. This  resulted in the Act that outlawed slave trade throughout the British Empire and made it illegal for British ships to be involved in the trade, marking the beginning of the end for the transatlantic traffic in human beings.

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