I was searching for artwork that would strike my fancy, El Anatsui’s work interested me when I saw it. I really like the idea of recycling, but unfortunately I do not do it. Last semester I visited Germany and saw how well their recycling program worked so I started doing it at home. When I moved to a bigger cabin my life became more hectic, so meow my recycling routing involves saving cardboard and paper plates for starting fires. When I move out I plan to recycle stuff again!
El Anatsui was born in 1944 in Ghana, specifically the Volta region. He studied at a university that is now known as the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. He became taught at a couple of colleges and is currently the head of sculpture at the UNN. His recent work in the past decade has been more popular than his previous works, but he has been creating for thirty years.
Anatsui makes use of tin, copper wire, aluminum plates, steel sheets, and many other recyclable materials in his art. He uses metal’s ability to hold a deformed shape to create all sorts of different art. Some of his work is abstract, some represent actual objects from African culture and history.
Crumbling Wall (2000)
The graters used to create this sculpture are used to prepare a product of cassava flour, gari, an important part of Western African traditional diets(1). A grater is a piece of sheet metal with nails punched through it to leave an abrasive surface on the underside. The production of gari is time-consuming and tedious and still done to this day. The wall figuratively represents the decay and corruption of African culture in recent times, as well as literally representing the slow destruction of once-beautiful buildings.
Adinkra Sasa (2003)
Adinkras are traditional hand-woven African cloths that have symbols stamped into them. Cloths used for funerals rituals are died dark colors, like black and brown(2). This particular piece was made by Anatsui to represent the death of the African way of life by the invasion and tyranny of the British, as “sasa” means “patchwork” in Ewe.
Wastepaper Bag (2003)
Place of Origin Unknown
Using aluminum plates and copper wire, Anatsui used recycled materials to create a garbage bag. This piece makes extensive use of metal’s ability to deform to give the bag a wrinkled look. This eight-foot tall piece of art is thought to represent the wastefulness that has infected Africa from outside influences. The aluminum plates used for this were actually printing plates for obituaries (no longer useful), giving a second meaning to the work about the fragility of human life.