I left Ghana(West Africa) in Dec, 2014. Never thought that I will ever visit Ghana again in my life. But since 2017 my husband kept visiting Ghana for his consultancy and here in 2020 I got a chance to open the pages of my life I spent in Ghana. I was excited to visit all those places I had been while in Ghana and recollect my memories. I stayed in Ghana for 14 years so Ghana was my second home and has a very special place in my heart. It has given me an identity of an artist. My first exhibition was held in Accra,Ghana. Ghanaian art and culture has a great influence on my art.
There are many people who write about their visit to Ghana but as an artist I wanted something else. I wanted this visit to be memorable in an artistic way . I have always been intrigued by artists and their work-spaces so decided to visit Ghanaian artists in their studios and celebrate the creativity of Ghana. I was glad to have been able to visit some of the studios and chat with the artists with the help of some of my artist friends, Directors of Foundation of Contemporary Art, Ghana, Ato Annan and Adwoa Amoah . Through this blog I intend to bring forth a few Ghanaian artists and then will continue to do studio visits of the artists from my hometown, Pune. I will look forward to meet some more Ghanaian artists in my next visit to Ghana .
Artist Kofi Nduro Donkor, one of my mentors in art from Ghana and a very gentle and lively personality. It was such a pleasure to meet Kofi again after 5 years. He adviced me on everything related to art,right from brush techniques to stretching to small tips of Art business. I had always felt his positivity very inspiring. After years of sheer dedication today he is one of the top selling artists from Ghana.I feel privileged to meet such a soul.
Kofi had his studio in cantonment area when I was in Ghana .The studio was located behind my daughter’s school so was easily accessible. I visited his studio not only when I had difficulty in art but also when I just wanted to see his painting process. Now he has shifted it to his newly built house. I was really happy to see him so proud of his house. Co-director of Foundation of Contemporary Art , Ato Anan accompanied me to his house. His house is on the outskirts of Accra just before Casawa, still under construction. It’s located at a higher altitude with clean air and gives a beautiful view of the surrounding area. As soon as we entered his house I was caught with large body of works with vibrant colours which evolved around the theme of everyday life scenes among which was my favourite market scene. His works show how deep he is in the African lore.
It was a friendly talk with Kofi. He took us around in the house before we settled down with a bottle of water for our informal chat.
Thank you for having us here. To start with, we would like to know more about you and your background.
I knew that art would have a special place in my life at a very young age . When we were in Accra one of our family member came to stay with us who use to draw and paint. I was greatly inspired from him to become an artist.. After my elementary school, I wanted to do something in Art but like many other parents , my father was against my decision. So to join the Ghanatta college of Art and Design in 1982 , I had to work to support the college and I did that by selling newspaper on roadside. My father didn’t know about this. Once we students had to exhibit our works and ithad a coverageon television news channel. My father heard when my name flashed as a participant and he was filled with proud feeling for his son and never stopped me from doing Art after that. Though I didn’t complete the school due to financial constraint and thus have no certificate in Art.
I had my first successful exhibition in 1992 at Golden Tulip Hotel, Accra. From that time on my life as an artist changed. Before this exhibition I was already selling my smaller works at Arts Center, Accra.
How do you navigate through the art world?
I have an active account on Facebook and Linkedin as well. I have successfully sold my works through Facebook. I regularly post my new paintings and people appreciate it. Interested people contact me directly. Though there are ups and downs sometimes. Sometimes people commission the work they see on Facebook in their desired dimensions.
During your journey as an artist, were you influenced by other artists?
In my college days Mr Apekoh mentored me. In my initial days as a young artist I was studying and observing all the great artists who visited Arts Center in Accra. Wiz (Wisdom Kuduwor) has influenced me and given a lot of encouragement. I love the energy of Prof Abelede Glover. I learned from him how to keep working as you don’t know when a buyer will come for some of your artwork. We are not only working for ourselves but for the future generation. What are we leaving behind? I want my grandchildren to see my works and feel proud .I do have some works which I am not selling as they are my family property.
Coming out of an art college you are required to create art in a specific way, some create the works that sell. Is that a determining factor in your art creativity?
As an artist you have to survive by selling your art. But in my opinion don’t sell all your works. Keep some to yourself which will in future define you.I sometimes gift a work to some clients and in return they bring more clients. Sometimes you have to make some works that will sell but as you are doing that you have to measure your work, it has to stand test of time.
How did you develop your style? What are the subject matters that you handle?
I would like to leave that to art writers. I just paint whatever comes to my mind and not think of painting in a particular way. Over a period of time people do recognize me from my art. For me it comes naturally. Most of the time ,I paint through my imagination. People are painting big scenes, market scenes but I paint through my perspective, my imagination. Sometimes I paint from a photograph, people will not be able to actually recognize the place but they will surely like it.
What is your creative process?
Sometimes it’s a headache what I am going to paint. Sometimes I work and destroy it. Sometimes I don’t know the destination. Sometimes I start in the middle of the night when some idea strikes me.
What media do you work in? What tools do you work with?
I have mostly worked in acrylics. I use brushes and knives.
Do you work in series?
Not always. But if a painting is a big scene then I work on a number of canvases at one time.
We have seen very vibrant paintings of yours and there is so much movement and happening in your scenes like the market scenes and beach scenes. The themes include mostly African’s love for music , dance and social gatherings. Do you always paint what you see or observe ?
Definitely I am fascinated with these scenes. It comes from the observation of everyday life. When I am not painting I go around the city and some scenes fit in my mind and when I get back to the canvas I work from my recollection and imagination. As an artist some of the old symbols do appear in my paintings. I feel whatever comes to your mind, just do it.
When do you think that the work is finished?
According to me , artist has to know when the work is finished. I know which of my works are still not finished which you may find complete. But in such times I keep these works aside and come to it later on.
How much time do you spend in studio?
I am in my studio from morning 7am to 3pm but sometimes I get bored and don’t even pick a brush. Then I go round in the town , meet friends , do family chores. But when there is an urge I work like a horse and it doesn’t even pain.
How is the artist community in Ghana?
There is no place for artists to come together and discuss art. Everybody is busy minting money. In my opinion young generation has to work on this issue.
Where is your collective base?
My collective base is in Europe, Africa and mostly in U.S.
How did you break in to the international art?
There is an art collector from U.S who came to Ghana for some personal work. I got introduced to him and through his contacts I was introduced to the galleries in Brooklyn and Maryland. That is how my artworks reached U.S.
What are your upcoming projects?
There is nothing like a project but my works will be showcased in a group exhibition in March 2020.
What are your thoughts on Art fairs and Art Residencies?
Every artist wants to meet new opportunities to show their work. Some are fortunate to grab these as they can afford but others don’t get sponsorships to enter these Art fairs. Getting funds is difficult in this side of the world.
How is the Art scene in Ghana?
It has a bright future. I believe that art is for common people and should be shared with them but unfortunately art is a luxury here.And still I think it has bright future.
What would like to convey to the younger generation of artists?
Paint your heart out. If you are serious and a patient artist , your art will be appreciated. It is like a football. You aren’t playing for yourself, you are playing for people to appreciate. Become a master of what you are doing.
Kofi Nduro, born in 1964 in Tarkwa, the Western region of Ghana, has had numerous art exhibitions hosted for him in his own country as well as in Europe and America.His works are widely collected. He stays and works in Accra.
His works can be viewed here: .https://www.facebook.com/kofi.donkor.9