Captivating character. In one of his sculptures, the

Captivating and authenticity are
two words that best describe the creation of El Anatsui’s art work. El Anatsui
is a contemporary artist born in Anayanko, Ghana in 1944. He studied at the
College of Art at the University of Science and Technology located in Kumasi.
He then moved on to teaching at the University of Nigeria and held the position
of head of sculpture at UNN. His sculptures have awaken a new form of art, with
its ability to be mutable in form allowing it to be altered in appearance. The
artwork gave insights on broader topics such as global consumerism,
transformation and the environment. He has taken everyday materials and
transformed them into an authentic form of art. He made these sculptures with metal
caps and liquor bottles. The way to achieve the structure of the sculpture was
to crush the liquor bottles and caps to create a flat circle or strips. After
having the flat surface, they were sewed together with copper wire, which then
allowed the flexibility to shape them as pleased. Apart from bottle caps, Anatsui
also used materials that ranged from old milk tins, iron nails, printing plates
and railway sleepers. His use of recycled materials showed that in Africa
unlike other places in the world, people had to reuse materials because it was
a necessity, rather than it being a choice. For Anatsui, it was important that
his artwork reflected its African origins.

The colorful pattern of the liquor
bottle and caps represent a story of colonial and postcolonial economic
cultural exchange in Africa, told in the history of cast-off materials. As for
the entirety of the sculpture, it was initially inspired by the finding of a
distillery in Nigeria. The distilleries produce dozens of brands of bottles of
various sizes which worked in Anatsui’s favor to be able to have multi colored
pieces for his art. Apart from the color and shapes, Anatsui loved the fact
that the bottles have been touched by other humans giving the sculpture even
more character. In one of his sculptures, the main color was gold, which
related to traditional Ghanaian kente cloth, with the color gold meaning royal reverence
and authority. While some people perceived his artwork as the broken- down
state of the Ghanaian economy, the true message that he intended to show through
his artwork was destruction that leads to renewal. Anatsui’s success has been
astonishing being in public collections that include the Metropolitan Museum of
Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Bill
and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Setagaya Museum, the British Museum and
plenty more. Each of his sculptures have a different meaning, significance, and
authenticity. Which makes them more than just a tapestry for aesthetic. Anatsui
broke sculpture’s traditional adherence to forms of fixed shape while visually
referencing the history of abstraction in African and European art.

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