Akԑ yaa heko | One does not take it anywhere will explore traditional funerary customs in contemporary Ghana through the artistic collaboration of coffin maker Paa Joe, who has been working for four decades, and performance artist Elisabeth Efua Sutherland.
Looking to the coastal Ga and Fante communities in Ghana, from which the exhibitors originate, the show takes its name from a Ga proverb (“one does not take it anywhere”) that speaks of the limits of wealth and/or power given the inability to carry possessions to the afterlife. Revolving around a fictional narrative, it will focus on the story of the death of a young girl, the works tackle death as a journey, “mediated through water, considering the trisection of the worlds of the unborn, the living and the dead,” the curatorial statement indicates. It will also explore the implications of objects in rituals of memory, commemoration, identity, self realisation, and the attitudes and motivations behind the material in Ghanaian culture.
Paa Joe, who is noted for and has internationally exhibited his fantasy coffins depicting objects referencing the life and lifestyle of the deceased, will showcase six coffins inspired by the seascape. Aided by his son and apprentice Jacob Tetteh Ashong, the coffins as artworks will be accompanied by Sutherland’s works: 12 performers in traditional funeral costumes will reenact Ga and Fante funerary rituals.
Video projections of conversations between the performers and the two artists will also run alongside the objects and performative activations, in addition to banners inspired by the frankaa or Asafo flags of the Fante. Typically depicting people, boats, plants, animals and geometrics, Sutherland has deconstructed the shapes and symbols to represent the dissolving traditional identities of Ghana today.
The fusion of traditional woodworking and contemporary performance builds upon the tendency in Ghanaian contemporary art to embrace interdisciplinary and multigenerational collaborations that challenge fine art canons.
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