Saturday 5 May 2012

Prince Claus Award for Anatsui's romance with culture, nature

By Tajudeen Sowole
(First published
Tuesday, January 19, 2010)
GRADUALLY, winning of The Netherlands-based Prince Claus Awards is becoming a yearly ritual in Nigeria.

Instituted in 1997 to be awarded to artists,
intellectuals and cultural organisations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Nigeria has produced three recipients in the last three years. 

The revered award, recently, added one of the
leading names in multi media art, El-Anatsui to its list of awardees.

The artist-teacher received his award at The Netherlands Embassy in Lagos.

Writer Chris Abani was the first Nigerian to be honoured by the awards foundation. The presentation ceremony was held
in the U.S. But Prince Claus Awards made its first official entry into Nigeria during its 10th year anniversary when the art advocacy group, Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) received the award in Lagos.

Later in 2008, it was the turn of photo artist, James Iroha Uchechukwu. He was honoured for being "a leading light of a new generation of Nigerian photographers."
The Ghana-born University of Nigeria, Nsukka- based
art scholar, El-Anatsui, according to Prince Claus, was among 11
Laureates chosen based on the theme, Culture and Nature.
Other recipients were: Douala, Cameroun-based Doual'art, a non-profit organization; Chinese artist, Liang Shaoji; Maharashtra, India-based artist, Jivya Soma Mashe credited with transforming the ritual art of the Warli people into a relevant contemporary expression; DR Congo's Sammy Baloji, described as "a prodigiously talented young photographer; South African photographer, Santu Mofokeng; as well as writer and activist Kanak Mani Dixit in
Lalitpur, Nepal.

Also on the list are The Institute for the History of Nicaragua and Central America (IHNCA), Nicaragua; culture activist
Desiderio Navarro, Cuba; master chef, Gaston Acurio in Lima, Peru. However, The Principal 2009 Prince Claus Award of
100,000 Euro goes to Colombian architect Sim
on Ve
lez while each of the ten recipients collects 25, 000 Euro. The foundation said Anatsui was honoured for "outstanding aesthetic and intellectual qualities of his creations; innovative use of materials to highlight dialogue between culture and nature; dedicated and inspirational role in the development of visual
art in Africa."

However, it appeared that when Prince Claus came up
with the theme of this year, they had Anatsui's work in mind: the artist's native Ghanaian textile has become a permanent feature of his artistic expression. 

From his base in Nigeria, Anatsui discovered fortune of his native Ewe, Ghana; a major factor in the evolution of his art, particularly on the metal fabric and other installation works.

In nature, Anatsui interprets this cultural content as he creates cloths, using discarded containers from local brands of whiskey, rum, vodka, brandy in labels such as Chairman, Dark Sailor,
King Solomon, Makossa, 007, Top Squad and Ecomog found in Nigeria.
The inspiration, Anatsui stated during his last exhibition tour of the U.S. in 2007, comes from the popular Ghanaian fabric, Kente - a strip-woven cloth of the Asante and Ewe peoples of Ghana and Togo. 

Also in 2007, Anatsui impacted the art landscape of the United Kingdom when he emerged as the third artist recorded on London's Channel 4 sculptural work tagged, The Big 4, an installation that brings the '4' logo to life on the steps of the channel's Horse ferry Road headquarters. His version of The Big 4 logo was a 50-ft medium of newspaper and magazine printing plate.
A founding member of Pan-African Circle of Artists (PACA), Anatsui was born in 1944 in Anyako, Ghana. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in Sculpture and a Postgraduate Diploma in Art Education from the University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana.

He has been teaching art at Nsukka since 1975. The artist exhibited at the 1990 Venice Biennale, where he received an
honorable mention and was included in the Johannesburg Biennale in 1995 as well as the Gwanju Bienniale, Gwanju, South Korea, 2004.

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