Amoako Boafo: An Artist Who Lives Ghana
And who said finger painting was only for children? Clearly, this was not a phrase artist Amoako Boafo has ever heard in his life. Born in the capital city of Accra, Ghana, and living in Vienna since 2014, Boafo is known for his finger-dipped paintings depicting figures such as himself and Black people from Africa and its diaspora.
At a young age Boafo fostered a love for art, but he recognized the difficulty in attempting a career in the space. In comparison to the United States and Europe, Ghana lacks a strong commercial art infrastructure. Luckily, he was able to attend Ghanatta College of Art and Design where he gained much prestige and accolades.
When his paintings caught the eye on Instagram of Kehinde Wiley — the artist known for his portrait of former President Barack Obama — Boada gained international notoriety. In the years since, Boafo has become a global artist, having been exhibited all over the world, collaborating with top-end companies, and selling some paintings in the millions. As well, in 2021, a few of his paintings were part of the launch by Blue Origin to space.
Boafo made news when his paintings were exhibited as a solo debut at the renowned art gallery Gagosian this past March. Despite the commercial and professional success, Boafo felt like something was missing. In an interview with ARTnews, Boafo explained his sense of incompleteness. “I was happy with the [reception] and how it turned out, but not having the family or people that I work with to enjoy the paintings as well—for me, it wasn’t enough,” He realized that he needed his paintings to be more personal, including, most essentially, his African heritage. Family should “be part of the conversation,” he said.
Boafo speaks to the all-too-common occurrence of African artists relocating to the West, where they and their art are seldomly viewed by audiences in their home country. This lack of reciprocity means for Boafo that “it’s important that the people that I make the painting for or with should have access to the painting… and also, for them to be part of the experience.”
Initiatives such as WE DEY — an art platform co-founded by Boafo in 2014 to give voice to artists of color and underrepresented communities — and dot.ateliers — an artist studio and residence in Accra that was founded by Boafo in 2022 — attest to his mission to celebrate African artists and art. Instead of going abroad, Boafo hopes he can create a system that provides the resources to support, develop and nurture the Ghanaian art scene.
Most recently, 30 large-scale paintings of Boafo are on display at the Seattle Art Museum. Titled “Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks” the exhibit is an acknowledgment and celebration of Africa and its people. Paying homage to the work by W. E. B. Du Bois of the same name, the exhibit is focused around telling the stories about Black people.
The West Coast museum published a statement, describing the exhibition as an exploration of “Black subjectivity, Black joy, and the Black gaze.”
“Boafo’s powerful and engaging figures—created between 2016 and 2022 and influenced by modern variables including the COVID-19 pandemic, the media’s commodification of Black bodies, and continued systemic oppression—are raw, intimate, and energetic as they come alive via carefully sculpted layers of paint. Together, Boafo’s portraits form a vivid assemblage of Black life around the world,” the museum said.
The featured paintings are mainly portraitures, all with the classic markers of Boafo’s use of vibrant colors, textured canvases, and, of course, finger-painted characters.
“I think everything that I will do in the West, I will try my possible best in my small way to bring it back home,” Boafo said. Hopefully, for Boafo, this exhibit will continue to be part of the solution for African artists.
The exhibition runs from July 13 to September 10.
Featured Image Via Observer