Sunday, July 03, 2011

El Anatsui: Shimmering display of the African sensibility

If you are already exposed to the astonishing wall hanging sculptures of El Anatsui, then you will need no further introduction of him. But if not, here is a brief introduction about this legendary Ghanaian sculptor who lives and works in Nigeria. 

Brahim El Anatsui was born in 1944 in Anayko, Ghana. After graduating from Nkrumah University of technology in Ghana, he moved to Nigeria in 1975 to take up a teaching job at Nsukka where he is lecturing at the University’s art institute on sculpture till today. Trained as a sculptor, earlier Anatsui worked with wood, found objects, iron, clay and paint. He established himself and got recognition for his free, unrestricted style of mixed media sculptures. These were non-representational as well as minimal figurative with strong connection with the African symbolism, particularly motifs from Ghanaian culture. Eventually Anatsui’s sculptural quest took him further in his explorations and he experimented with used metal, recycled materials like milk bottles, tins, bottle caps etc. A significant advance came in the late 90’s, when he started creating sparkling tapestry by using flattened liquor bottle caps and beer cans. 

The ‘Anatsui’ that the art world now cherishes and values immensely is through this recent work in particular. Glittering, substantially large in scale and sharply hinting of its African sentiments, Anatsui’s hanging sculptures are free to take any shape and do not display any narrative consciously. But that’s not all about it, behind these magnificent metal hangings there are stories. The stories of conflicting African urbanization, unknown stories of human beings who have touched and used these materials, and also a great attempt to answer some misinterpretations about modern art that has emerged out of African subcontinent form a force behind his work. El Anatsui is praised for his efforts for opening a gateway to contemporary African art, which until now was rather misjudged as mere ethnic native art.
Anatsui’s work has achieved the rare feat of holding on to its innate roots and then going on to transform it into a work of indisputably universal appeal. Today his metal hangings strongly entice the art world and in future, whichever form, shape, and structure they may evolve into, they will always be highly treasured. I strongly feel that his work has created a long lasting impact on the thought process of the art world and a unique place for modern art emerging from Africa. 


Manisha said...

Thanks Debuji for this information,I think I have seen one of this artists work in Ghanian gallery but I didn't know much about him.

Onkar Shirgaonkar said...

hi debu sir, nice post. this is amazing & different style of art.
El Anatsui are great artist. thanks for posting this information.

Anonymous said...

Bonjour Debu, formidable présentation de cet artiste, magnifique et bonjour à la mousson :-)

Lynn said...

His work is just stunning! Thanks for posting this.

Debu Barve said...

Manisha, Thank you so much for your remarks. it is so nice to have you as my reader all the way from Ghana. BTW, you have a nice blog!

Onkar,Thanks, yes he is an amazing artist.

Thig,Thanks.:)Yes, it is already lush green in country side.

Lynn, Nice to see your comment after a long time! Yes, Anatsui is absolutely fabulous artist. Click on the top most image in the blog post, it is quite a large image which gives a great 'Anatsui experience'.:)

Stephanie Hoff Clayton said...

His work is breathtaking! The method, materials, scale and color- phenomenal.

petras kunstblog said...

Really very impressive and beautiful work. Especially the work on the first Photo.
Thanks Debu.

Anonymous said...

Bonsoir Debu,je reviens pour vous dire que cela me fait penser à l'oeuvre du jeune artiste Krishnaraj Chonat, qui vit,je crois, à Bangalore; peut-être pas dans l'idée mais dans la forme cinétique qui nous est offerte.. veuillez m'excuser d'écrire en français; :-)

Debu Barve said...

Stephanie, Petra,
Thank you for your remarks. Yes, I felt the same when first came across to his amazing work.Absolutely phenomenal.

Debu Barve said...

Dear Thig,

Yes! Thank you for pointing it out. Krishnaraj Chonat's some installations have similar feel. I've read about him in articles but not seen his work so far. I will be traveling to Bangalore in couple of months, perhaps will get a chance to see his work.

Anonymous said...


I am struck by so many things when I look at this work. The tactile quality, the textile reference, the size, the presence of hand, and the landscape quality. All this comes together to create work that is powerful and intimate all at the same time. LOVE! I am also intrigued by the notion of what it must be like to be an African artist. How does that differ from coming from the US? You don't have to answer that question. I am just pondering the notion. Very interesting.

bicocacolors said...

I have known in my last visit to the Metropolitan and I can only say it's awesome!
thanks for such a great selection


V. Deshmukh said...

Hi Debu, Thank you for all the lovely and informative posts. Please keep them coming.
I have changed my blog to . My old blog address is being used by someone else and it is appearing as VINAYAK DESHMUKH ART in everyone's bloglist which is not correct. Please make the necessary changes.

Slogan Murugan aka M S Gopal said...


See this:

Slogan Murugan aka M S Gopal said...

sorry this is the link:

Debu Barve said...

Sorry guys for being offline for a while.

Marry: Thank you for your interesting input. Loved your observations!

Vinayak: Thanks for your comments. Yes, I've done
changes in my blogroll.

Elelna: Thanks! It must have been great experience looking his work at Metropolitan!

Slogan: Thanks for sharing wonderful links, so apt. pictures from Liberia by Glenn are stunning.

Andrew Graeme Gould said...

Facinating art, Debu. Thanks for this introduction to an artist who I did not know of. Although different in style, that large work of his immediately made me think of the part of the Santiago Metro sculpture that I posted, and you requested to see whole. That's still on my "to do" list...

Debu Barve said...

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for your comment. As you have rightly pointed it out, there is a correlation! I remember that striking image of train station mural, and indeed would love to see the entire in picture, whenever you get an opportunity to click.:) Thanks again!

Nomi Lubin said...

Wow, fascinating and inspiring. He really transcends. That is, in lesser hands, these pieces could look like imitations of textiles made out of old cans and things. Could be rather one-note. But these take on an additional and monumental :) life of their own.

Candy said...

Really amazing...

Lori said...

I love his work, I have never seen it live and ihad not seen the details before either , thank you!

Debu Barve said...

Lori, Thanks!
If not already, click on the top most image in the blog post, it is quite a large image.

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Varna said...

This is really amazing and different style of art , thanks for sharing this.

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