Stunning, captivating and draped in tradition. Oscar Korbla Mawuli Awuku - Yonga Arts is a cultural activist, body artist, painter and sculptor. Yonga Arts tells African stories influenced by historical Ghanaian Adinkra symbology.
Can you share with us the origins of your work?
My body of works explores pre-colonial culture but also addresses decolonized practices in contemporary culture, the essence of identity of the black body, advocates for women and seeks to ask empowering questions in society.
Please tell us more about the history and knowledge you wish to convey...
My experimentation with my body of art has been largely informed by the historical and design decisions that have characterized the production of Ashanti and ewe kente cloth.
This includes the weaving process where threads is thrown over and beneath others in a repetitive, rhythmic manner to form patterns and shapes in the overall design. This rhythmic action draws my attention to the crafty yet mythical Ghanaian folkloric character: Kweku Anansi.
Share with us your process and Anansinisim.
Anansi is an Akan name given to the mythical figure which represents in the form of a spider. It’s meticulously crafty nature, complex and embolic of the spider web making process is a process I have appropriated for my body of art which I call Anansinisim.
I carefully fuse visual network of designs in a syncopated manner, loaded with historical Ghanaian Adinkra symbology to create both personal and traditional symbols and designs that are painted onto the body.
The designs on the body re-echoes the collective knowledge and wisdom of my ancestors which are gradually losing their values to contemporary audiences.
My constant use of the ritual mask is based on the believe that it conceptually turns the wearer of it into the spirit represented by the mask itself.
Women are celebrated in your work, can you tell us more about this?
My works mostly portray the advocacy and empowerment of women in other to stand equally for leadership roles just like we men do in society.
Is there a piece of wisdom from our ancestors you hold close?
Ati ɖeka me wɔ na ave o. (A single tree cannot make a forest).
A single tree refers to an influential, prominent, elderly or rich person in society e.g., a King, President or Chief. The forest also refers to an institution, family or community.
The proverb therefore depicts that a rich or prominent person alone cannot constitute a family, region, state or nation. There are forest areas in the Ewe land, and during the farming season it calls for communal spirit and team work.
The proverb teaches against over-reliance on individual efforts but advocates cooperation and unity among the people to achieve set goals. It inculcates teamwork and communal spirit among the people.
All images by and courtesy of Oscar Korbla Mawuli Awuku
Website: Yonga Art