EXHIBIT: El Anatsui’s Africa at the Brooklyn Museum


El Anatsui by Moe Doiron [ The Globe and Mail]

El Anatsui via The Globe and Mail

Globally renowned Ghanaian-born contemporary artist, El Anatsui, has officially graced the Big Apple.  As of February 8, 2013, the Brooklyn Museum welcomed Anatsui’s first solo exhibition in New York City entitled, “Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui.” Over 30 of his metal and wood works will be on display through August 4th of this year.

Earth via Fireplace Chats

Earth via Fireplace Chats

Golden Drainpipes via The Brooklyn Museum

Golden Drainpipes via The Brooklyn Museum

Born in 1944 to a fisherman father who was also a master weaver of kente cloth, Anatsui grew up in the Anyako province of the Volta Region. He studied art at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology [KNUST] in Kumasi. However, the young artist did not forget his African roots—making efforts to immerse himself in local Ghanaian traditions. In the 1970s, Anatsui’s artistic style was entirely local – wall pieces made from wooden display trays gathered in local markets, stamped with mythical symbols using a hot iron.

The Byzantine via Art Info

The Byzantine via Art Info

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SANFORD BIGGERS: I am actually a Japanese artist wearing the mask of a Black man manufactured by a White person to look like your idea of a rapper.

The Brooklyn Museum was buzzing on Thursday night, May 24th. Creatives from all over New York City were decked out in their flyest Afro-prints and chunky glasses, gathered for the screening of The Triptych, the latest documentary film series by Terence Nance, presented by Afro-Punk Pictures and the Weeksville Heritage Center.

TERENCE NANCE: When you need something done, you often look to hire people, but you forget that your friends are capable, creative people, and often make the best team.

You may know Nance, Triptych’s Director, and Shawn Peters, Director of Photography, from their collaboration with Blitz the Ambassador on the short film Native Sun (2011), a 20-minute audio-visual treat shot in Ghana. The two also directed the recent Sundance premiere, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty. The Triptych offers a bit more narrative than these abstract delights, but is equally wacky, magical, and visually delicious.

WANGECHI MUTU: The Kikuyu religion that spoke to me was overtaken by Christianity. You had to be Christian in order to be a part of modernity.

The Triptych highlights the work of artists Sanford Biggers, Wangechi Mutu, and Barron Claiborne. The twenty-minute assemblages of interviews, artworks, photographs, text, and abstraction blur the line between life and art, reality and representation. The three profiles, works of art in themselves, are clever, challenging, and laugh-out-loud funny.

BARRON CLAIBORNE: I know how people see me and I know I’m nothing like it. Blackness is an illusion.

CLAIBORNE: “Person” comes from “persona” which means mask…. I’m not really at war with anything. I don’t really care. I just want to do what I want.

BIGGERS: Black black black quack post-black. The way blackness is scrutinized on a daily basis, it fucks your head up. It’s not about the mask, but what’s behind it. The duality ingrained in society and the various avatars within yourself.

The conversations invite us to explore the experiences and observations behind Biggers’s subversive performance and installation pieces, Mutu’s mythical collage creatures, and Claiborne’s beautiful and wry photographs.

WANGECHI MUTU: My creations are mythical, magical, beyond human.

BIGGERS: As an artist, I find history like a sculptural material – malleable – the meanings reassembled to make new features.

The shorts are the first in what promises to be a vibrant and significant series. Nance and Claiborne, Co-Director, conceived the project together, expanded to include Mutu and Biggers, and will continue to chronicle the work, lives, and practices of some of the freshest visual artists today.


After the films closed, the wit and humor continued through a Q&A led by Ghanaian journalist and writer Esther Armah. The group of four friends could not stop laughing, even while engaging complex racial and socio-historical theory. They touched upon commonalities in the way they embrace grayness and reject binaries of black and white. They addressed the strong family influences that have pushed them in their work, and the challenges they still face in the art market despite their success. Claiborne said that while artists like Damien Hirst have mastered how to monetize their work, many of those who have been labeled as Black artists are still figuring it out. As the audience geared up for applause, Claiborne winked, “Now everyone should pay me $100 on their way out, meet you in the lobby.”


As if the three gorgeous films and a brilliant Q&A were not enough, the after-party did not disappoint. The artists and filmmakers stuck around to chat with audience-members, while Eclectic Method projected rap video remixes against the glass entrance. Claiborne kept his camera going the whole night, making live art portraits in front of his signature bright print screen.


Celebrity spottings included Mos Def a.k.a. Yasiin Bey, Rahiem of Grandmaster Flash, Ghanaian filmmaker Sam Kessie and Rwandan electropop singer Iyadede aka “That Girl from Africa.”


Good thing Brooklyn’s finest photographers were out to capture the fabulous evening. It was one dope night of art, film, and music…and should be just the first of many.

*photos + words by Robin Riskin aka @rriskinitall



We’re really blown away by this. If you don’t believe in magic after watching these three previews, go see your doctor. Wish we could teleport to the Brooklyn Museum to peep the cinematic action.

If you are in the NYC area on next Thursday, May 24th check out The Triptych. It’s a three-part short documentary film series presented by Afro-Punk Pictures and the Weeksville Heritage Center. The films chronicle the artistic process of three Black visual artists: Kenyan-born Wangechi Mutu, Sanford Biggers and Barron Claiborne (co-creator of the series).

As Afro-Punk puts it, “The first in the series features [three] contemporaries, luminaries and friends. Spanning the artistic gamut from interdisciplinary to photography and performance, their keen reflections on the world are at once startling and insightful.”

Shout out to the homies Terence Nance (Director) and Shawn Peters (Director of Photography) of the film series. Nance and Peters collaborated with Blitz the Ambassador on the Native Sun (2011) film, as well as many of his other music video and film projects. Nance is also directing the documentary on Blitz’s 2011 Homecoming concert in Accra with Les Nubians (co-produced with REDD Kat Pictures). 2012 is a hell of a year for Nance whose debut film An Oversimplification of Her Beauty received rave reviews at Sundance.

For more information, check out www.afropunk.com.