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El Anatsui’s ‘Shard Song’ solo to launch Efie Gallery’s Dubai space

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Efie Gallery will launch their new permanent Dubai gallery space in Al Quoz Creative Zone on March 8, with a major solo exhibition titled Shard Song.

It consists of works of renowned Ghanaian contemporary artist El Anatsui, and is curated by Mae-Ling Lokko and creatively directed by Aida Muluneh. The exhibition presents a series of new wooden sculptures that recall the artist’s earlier practice in this medium and its continued evolution, complemented by a range of signature bottle cap works.

“The term ‘shard’ goes back to the fundamental unit in El Anatsui’s work — the broken fragment of the ceramic pot, the bit, or piece — that has undergone a process of rupture and division.

“But ‘shard’ here communicates the quality and potential of the broken piece – of something that’s edges are left bare: exposed but ultimately, ‘free’.

Shard also brings with it a degree of lifeforce within the small-scale of the fragment,” said Lokko. Expanding on the theme, she explains further that “the idea of the ‘song’ belonging to the shard, gives the shard agency. It also taps into the dynamism and movement that has evolved in the iterative process of the wood carvings. “What emerges is an almost-musical quality to the wood panels’ pattern of carving and notes of colour. There is a fluidity in the chaos and visibility of force, that propels the small scale carvings across the wood panels.

“I felt the word ‘song’ brings it together in an intimate, personal way, communicating the joy, and liberatory notes in the works.

The idea that “each shard has its own song” gives dignity and a unique power to each, but ‘song’ still can also be taken to mean the whole, cumulative impact of many individual shard songs.” Efie Gallery made their Dubai debut in 2021 with a pop-up pavilion exhibition in Burj Plaza, forming part of the All Africa Festival. It provided a preview of the gallery’s longer-term plans for Dubai and the region.

Efie art 2  

El Anatsui’s composition on display.

Now, with its new and permanent exhibition space, the gallery is the new addition to the Al Khayat Art Avenue in Dubai’s Al Quoz Creative Zone — a cultural destination and an integral development within the expanding Al Quoz Arts District. Co-founded by Kobi Mintah, Kwame Mintah and Valentina Mintah, Efie Gallery is a contemporary art gallery specialising in the promotion of African artists from within the continent and the diaspora, with a focus on West African art. It represents both mid-career and established artists and supports the sharing of their works in the Middle East, creating a platform for collaboration and exchange between the two regions. The gallery space is 3,000 square metres and a mezzanine hosts an artist’s studio for residency programmes, catering for both the gallery’s artists and local artists as well as a record gallery, which will exhibit rare and important vinyl records from around the world.

El Anatsui was born in Ghana in 1944 and currently lives and works between his two studios in Ghana and Nigeria. Though he is famous globally for his metal works made up of used bottle caps, parts of tin cans and other metallic objects connected to each other with copper wire, he transforms mediums such as paper, wood and other metals, into various expressions of art. Currently the most visible artist to have emerged from the 1970s art movement Nsukka Group, his oeuvre originated from using materials from his environment, speaking to his heritage as an African, rather than foreign mediums.

Having held over 80 solo exhibitions worldwide to his credit, his works are in collections of major art institutions, international museums, art galleries and auction  houses, as well as corporate and individual art collectors. He participated in the Venice Biennale in 1990 and 2007 and exhibited in the landmark inaugural Ghana Pavilion in 2019. His  work has achieved seven figures at auction and belongs in the collections of the National  Museum of African Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Vatican, British Museum, de Young Museum and Paris’s Centre Pompidou, to name a few. Lokko is a designer, artist and educator from Ghana and the Philippines.

Muluneh is an Ethiopian photographer and contemporary artist based in Addis Ababa. Her stark, stylised portrait photography captures facts and fictions of postcolonial Africa. She recently worked with The Africa Institute in Sharjah on programmes for Ethiopia and is currently a Canon Ambassador for the Youth Education Programmes at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Valentina Mintah (Co-founder) is a Ghanaian technology executive, internationally recognised for her expertise in trade facilitation. Kobi Mintah Co-founder of Efie Gallery and is co-curator of its debut exhibition. Efie, translated ‘Home’ in Akan, the principal native language of the Akan people of Ghana, was coined by Kobi, to express a love of his community, in the promotion of contemporary African art. Kwame Nsiah Adomako Mintah (Co-founder) is an art collector, curator and student of Philosophy and Ethics at King’s College London, living across Accra, Dubai and London. Al Quoz Creative Zone in Dubai falls under the vision to help the emirate in its aim to become a global capital for the creative economy. A variety of fields will be represented in the new zone, including art, architecture, fashion, publishing, print and digital media, cultural heritage museums, historical sites, cinemas, libraries and design.

Credit: El Anatsui’s ‘Shard Song’ solo to launch Efie Gallery’s Dubai space – GulfToday