I just spent a wonderful afternoon introducing my children to one of Africa's greatest contemporary artists, El Anatsui. Born in Ghana, El Anatsui studied art in Kumasi but felt his education had little resonance with his own culture. He studied traditional European art and was encouraged to use European art materials that were difficult to find in Ghana. So instead he turned to his own surroundings and cultural roots for inspiration. Now living in Nigeria, El Anatsui creates and sculpts incredible pieces of art using broken and discarded objects to reflect the language, symbolism and history of Africa.
The exhibit I enjoyed is currently at the Denver Art Museum "El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You About Africa". The show features more than 60 pieces of art, tracing four decades of El Anatsui's work. It's just a riot of movement and color. There are wood carvings of people made from broken maize pounders, huge tapestries made from thousands of bottle caps (see photo), and incredible sculptures created out of condensed tin cans. It's beautiful, inspiring and thoroughly African. His ink drawings and wood carvings (made with a chainsaw) are also wonderful. If you get a chance to see his work in person, you really have to check it out. If you've seen his work before, go again. Every sculpture can be moved and shaped to fit the exhibit space and the curators' own creative vision, so it's always changing.
Check out details about the exhibit: "El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You About Africa", and more about El Anatsui.