Prolific Ghanaian sculptor Kwame Akoto-Bamfo is telling the story of Africa with each exhibit. His latest installation is one that is literally turning heads. The artist, educator and cultural activist and his studio @OsrambaStudio have embarked on a journey to not only inspire but educate through their art installations.
Akoto-Bamfo’s latest clay bust installation features head busts in a lake! You read right. A lake.
As an artist his monuments carve a historical retelling of the Trans-atlantic Slave Trade.
His art is influenced by the Akan funeral tradition of nsodie which dates back to at least the 17th century. Sculptors, usually women, would create clay busts which would be displayed in cemeteries in order to preserve the memory of the dead. Kwame Akoto-Bamfo is retelling this custom and history through his installations. Nkyinkyim is one of such installations Akoto-Bamfo made which comprises of more than 1,300 cement effigies set in a field in Nuhalenya Ada.
Akoto-Bamfo’s started exhibiting his art of ‘heads’ in 2010. He stated that this was after learning about the Akan’s traditional burial rites. He was inspired to sculpt and thus started to install his art in a field near his studio in 2018, nearly 400 years after the first slave ship landed at Point Comfort in Virginia. His material of choice is cement rather than clay because it is not only sustainable, but also because it is capable of withstanding Ghana’s torrid climate.
Early last year, 111 nsodie from the installation were put on permanent display at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Alabama.
Akoto-Bamfo’s art is drawing a lot of attention and his latest installation is particularly popular with both African and Diaspora art and history appreciates. The Trans Atlantic Slave Trade is a dark blot on the history of the world and its remembrance and relevance aids in the recognition of how far we have come and how far we can go.
It is Akoto-Bamfo’s aim to not only explore these historical themes but to empower African identity.