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ImageDIVERSE COLOURS 2008 is a unique art exhibition bringing outstanding contemporary works by artists originating from Africa and the Caribbean to London.

ReConnect Africa previews the forthcoming exhibition and speaks to Kwame Akuffo about the inspiration behind the show.

 A unique art exhibition that celebrates the diversity of the African and Caribbean cultural experiences opens in London this month. Bringing together stunning paintings and prints by contemporary artists including Glen Turner, Nicola Welcome, Robert Aryeetey, Kamala and Kweku Opoku, the exhibition will showcase works which, say the exhibitors, are naturally diverse yet grounded by the common historical legacies, ethnicities and tropical landscapes of Africa and the Caribbean.

DIVERSE COLOURS 2008 is the first collaboration between AFRIKart, run by Ghanaian Kwame Akuffo and Hibiscus, established by Kamini Corriette who grew up in Guyana. The art collectors are now aiming at bringing together regular exhibitions by outstanding artists from Africa, UK and Caribbean.

Diversity and Community

ImageAfrican and Caribbean societies are populated by a microcosm of the world’s population and cultures: Black African, Indian, Middle Eastern, Portuguese Northern European and Chinese. This heady concoction of peoples and cultures throws up an amazing brew of languages, cultures, belief systems and symbols of life which co-exist with a mix of schism, drama and dynamism but which remain intrinsically well-balanced.

It is this balance that inspired AFRIKart and Hibiscus to come together to showcase works from these areas; works which are naturally diverse but yet linked by a common thread of culture and experience.

Diverse Colours 2008 celebrates the different arts which have emerged from the divergent experiences of these societies, accentuating the positive outcomes of these experiences.

ReConnect Africa caught up with Kwame Akuffo to find out more about DIVERSE COLOURS and to learn about what inspired him and Hibisicus’s founder Kamini (Kay) Corriette to put on this exhibition.

“My art odyssey was set off by a painting I saw hanging in the reception area of Labadi Beach Hotel in Accra, Ghana in the late 1990’s by the Ghanaian artist, Larry Otoo,” said Akuffo. “This was the day when the light was switched on in my mind about the great beauty of contemporary African art.”

“I created AFRIKart Gallerie a few years ago as a vehicle to promote outstanding contemporary art by artists of African origin. This was fuelled by the realisation that little space is provided for such art in the UK. Any interest is smothered by the preponderance of traditional arts and crafts – sculpture, woodworks prints etc. To a large extent, everything else is ghettoised and there are not many places to show good and great art of African and Caribbean origin”.

“Imagine a world without art…..”

A meeting with Corriette shaped the idea for the exhibition, he added. “Kay Corriette came from a similar perspective and was quite keen to promote great contemporary art of West Indian origin and started by putting together a small collection. Going to the AFRIKart exhibition (Inspirations and Confluence) in September 2007 in London rekindled the desire to do something about her passion for such work and making these available to be seen and to be bought.”

It was Corriette’s suggestion that AFRIKart and Hibiscus should work together to bring artworks from artists from African and Caribbean origin and to mount an exhibition to celebrate Black History month in October 2008. Discussions ensued with the Gallery at Willesden Library and, as Akuffo says, “the result is this exhibition - earlier than expected - but nevertheless an opportunity to do something.”

Kwame Akuffo is clear about the role art has in celebrating and connecting with culture.

“Art is a celebration of culture in all its forms. Imagine, for a moment, our nations without plays, crafts, paintings, dancers or musicians. What would we have known about the Benin Civilisation without its bronzes? What is Ashanti culture without the drums, kente and pageantry?”

Image “Think about how we would record our stories without the thousands of artists past and present,” he adds. “It would be a bleak vista — devoid of the colour, life and excitement that our artists bring to our nations and cultures. It is not just about expressing who we are, it is also about what we are - our arts and crafts are vital to our social well-being.

“New expressions of talent have marked each new development in our history. As we grow as people, our art grows with us; sometimes at a slow pace, at other times at an explosive pace. As the world has become smaller, we all learn from each other.

“Our multicultural backgrounds have brought a new flavour to our arts — melding and creating truly original voices. Materials and techniques have become commonplace, yet art from our subcontinents still maintain uniqueness. Whilst it is possible to identify art from, say, Nigeria or Ghana or the West Indies, it is also possible to identify the Tropical or such tropical origins of such art.

“Art provides an insight into our cultures; it provides meaning to our lives. It enables us to make observations about the past and present and lets us dream in visible forms. Art, in a nutshell, celebrates our cultures and civilisations from its basic forms to its most sophisticated levels. It keeps our imaginations active; it encourages us to express ourselves, it helps develop our self-esteem and pride, it teaches our children not only our stories but how they can become part of the story, and it creates a sense of community. Art is about yesterday, today, tomorrow and about the future.”

The Artists

DIVERSE COLOURS 2008 features works by Abushariaa, an outstanding Sudanese artist based in Nairobi; Robert Aryeetey, one of Ghana’s foremost painters, whose work was presented to the Queen on her last visit to Ghana; Bruce Chidovori, a talented Zimbabwe artist, who is largely self-taught and who is now working as a full time painter; Kamala, who pioneered one of the UK’s first graffiti community arts companies and is involved in several community arts projects and Kweku Opoku, a well-known graphic artist and designer. The show also features work by Nicola Welcome, originally from Guyana, and Kweku Kissiedu, a fine contemporary artist who works in watercolours and acrylics.

“Art provides an insight into our cultures; it provides meaning to our lives.”

The exhibition, which takes place at The Gallery in Willesden Green, at the heart of London’s Caribbean and African communities, will be ‘a month-long celebration’ of the experiences of the two communities. Those lucky enough to invest in the art on display will also be supporting a good cause as the exhibitors plan to make a donation to Akropong School for the Blind, a school for the disabled in Ghana, from the proceeds of sales made at the end of the exhibition.

Diverse Colours runs from 14 April until 9 May at The Gallery at Willesden Green, Willesden Green Library Centre, 95 High Road, Willesden, London NW10 10SF. Admission is free. For information: Kwame Akuffo 07880 794751  kwameakuffo@btinternet.com   kcorriette@yahoo.co.uk.  www.afrikart-gallerie.com
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