Whether it’s a self-portrait, a portrait of another woman, or a portrait of her father, the hanging tapestries by Zohra Opoku carry the delicacy and intimacy of an old family photograph or newspaper clipping. They appear old even though they are not. This aged and often-blurry aesthetic (because of the silkscreening process) is representative of Opoku’s efforts to make sense of her past that was not always accessible to her. She grew up in Germany but her father, who was Ghanian, passed away young taking with him her knowledge of that side of the family. Portraying her family is one way she reconnects with her past, while using fabric as her medium is a way she connects with her present Ghanian culture. Fabric is the material of woman, and Opoku is interested in making herself part of this community of women.
The power of Raphael Adjetey Mayne’s portraiture comes almost entirely from his subject’s body language. The portraits say a lot without actually providing the viewer much to work with. Mayne does not illustrate facial features nor background settings. The most detail is in the patterns of the traditional African fabrics which he collages to create the portraits. But still, we as viewers have no trouble reading these bodies. Tour Boyz (2018) is a group of four boys, probably three friends with one younger brother, dressed up with their tucked-in collared shirts in a moment of waiting. Take Me Serious (2017) is a young man with attitude who cares about his appearance, as seen in the shape of his very strong arms and coifed hair. Using a material of his culture as his medium, Mayne’s series is a multifaceted portrait of the people of Ghana.
Some more contemporary Ghanian artists: Godfried Donkor, Serge Attukwei Clottey, Ibrahim Mahama, John Akomfrah, Jeremiah Quarshie, Diseye Tantua, Kekeli Sumah, Larry Achiampong, Kwame Asante Agyare, and Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh