The Sown Seed

27th June 2022

Unit 2 Al Khayat Art Avenue

19th Street – Al Quoz 1

Off First Al Khail Street

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Efie Gallery’s second exhibition at its space in Dubai is dedicated to a selection of work by seven artists from Ghana, Mali and Kenya. Titled “The Sown Seed”, the exhibition features the work of Abdoulaye Konaté, Ablade Glover, Betty Acquah, Kwaku Yaro, Rikki Wemega-Kwawu, Wiz Kudowor and Maggie Otieno. Many of these artists have been practicing for over 30 years, notably renowned Ghanaian artist Glover, who has become a seminal figure in the West African art scene, and Konaté, esteemed Malian artist whose vibrant, layered textiles stem from local craft traditions in the artist’s home country, beginning their practice during the modern period. The ethos and spirit of these eclectic artists has seen them continuously evolve and inspire generations of younger artists. “The Sown Seed”, like its name, explores and celebrates the last few decades of artistic invention and how the artists featured have effectively sown seeds of tenacity, artistic evolution and innovation that has spurred numerous of artists in Africa and worldwide. 

Maggie Otieno’s sculptures are derived from her dreams and fantasies whereby she references everyday Kenyan life in imaginative renditions. For example, in “When we journeyed…” (2020) made in wood and mild steel, she documents railway sleepers through simple, elongated forms that depict the many memories and stories they carry as constant travellers. Many of the works on view incorporate symbols to visualize and reference the world around them through abstract forms. In “Benevolent Realm” (2016) and “Realm of the Muses IV” (2014), by Wiz Kudowor, one of Ghana’s most renowned names from the modern period, references traditional symbols to portray everyday life around him through abstract images, incorporating elements from his cultural background and merging them with visual language inspired by tribal traditions, imagery, and mythology. Similarly, Ablade Glover is known for his ability to take an everyday Ghanaian scene, such as a marketplace, and reproduce it in a way that reveals the vibrant world around him, on the brink of constant bustle and change, as seen in “Green Forest” (2022). Konaté’s bold yet delicate textile-based installations complement the other works on canvas. Winner of the 2002 the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mali and Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de France, his pieces incorporate a variety of vibrant colors encompassing various meanings to enhance the power of the individual and the textile the artist uses. Konate’s large-scale installations use woven and dyed clothes from his native Mali and question the ways in which societies and individuals have been affected by war, the struggle for power, religion, globalization, ecological shifts, and the AIDS epidemic. On show are two works by Konaté: “Composition Bleue-gris motif Arkilla kerka n. 2” (2021) and “Etude de vert Touareg AK n° 7” (2018). While referencing the myriad problems facing the world, Konaté’s works remain beautiful and uplifting, transcending us from the turmoil of everyday life. 

Other bold creations in the form of realistic portrayals come from the work of feminist Ghanaian painter Betty Acquah who highlights Ghanaian women that she terms as “unsung heroes of the republic of Ghana.” Her works show a serene water landscape painted in a pointillist style revealing the expansive turquoise

waves of the Atlantic Ocean in “Gold Coast” (2022) and the rhythmic movements of three traditional dancers in “Harmonious Three” (2021), both painted in acrylic on canvas. Also on show are the abstract paintings of Ghanaian Rikki Wemega-Kwawu whose works draw from ancient African religious iconography, emphasizing symbolic expression of a spiritual process and knowledge emanating from traditional rituals in Ghana and greater West Africa. Such is found in his works “The Voice of Silence” (2013) on view. 

These works by older and mid-career established artists are juxtaposed with the work of younger, up-and-coming artists such as Ghanaian Kwaku Yaro who uses mixed media upcycled bags, wax prints, and jute sacks alongside his traditional acrylic painting in his work such as found in his portraits of eccentric African youth like “Adwoa Fowaa” (2022) is on view and presents a fashionably dressed reclining woman done in acrylic, woven nylon, and burlap on polymer.