Words Carinya Sharples Photograph The Drunkard Mr. Oti by Almighty God
Witchcraft, corruption, film posters, religious texts… the three Ghanaian artists exhibiting at London’s Jack Bell Gallery have some unusual sources of inspiration.
The group exhibition, titled Kings of Kumasi, includes paintings from Almighty God, Isaac Otchere Azey and Akwesi Addai – who all hail from Kumasi. “Kumasi is known throughout West Africa for its vibrant urban art scene,” explains gallery owner Jack Bell. “As the Asante capital of Ghana, it is renowned as a cultural city. “I first became aware of Almighty God through an exhibition at the Musée Dapper in Paris. His graphic style and playful use of language struck me as having a vitality akin to Basquiat or Haring. I went to Kumasi to put a show together that would reflect the energy and life of its street studio art.”
The modestly titled Almighty God finds inspiration for his evangelical works in Christianity (unsurprisingly) but also in juju, witchcraft and satire. Akwesi Addai, meanwhile, draws on both real life and fantasy, including voracious animals, hooded executioners and long-tongued witches. For Isaac Otchere Azey, Kings of Kumasi marks his first London exhibition. His works comment on issues of morality, sexuality, illness, social inequality and corruption.
The Jack Bell Gallery, which focuses on “politically and socially engaged” work by artists from sub-Saharan Africa, is already planning its next showcase: a group exhibition of photography from Benin dating back as far as 1950.
Kings of Kumasi, Jack Bell Gallery, London, until 11 June