Arts Collaboratory

Residency

     

Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh, Ghana residency at Lugar a dudas, Cali, Colombia, December 2014

Building up of the installation at La Merced Church, Cali, 2014
Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh, Untitled (3) … [Letter to the Sky], installation at La Merced Church, 2014

Lugar a dudas is a contemporary art space based in Santiago de Cali, Colombia. The name loosely translates as ‘place to doubt’. The ethos of the space contests existing paradigms and encourages questioning as the ideal posture to uncover new ideas. Furnished with an accommodation facility (This Is Not A Hotel), a gallery and library, it positions itself as a hub for developing ideas and critical thinking through exchange and research.

During my one month residency in December 2014, I met artists who espoused the desire for understanding the constitution of one’s cultural identity through a collective past—some of whom I established collaborative relationships undergirded by respect and appreciation of each other’s cultural diversity. Engaging my country’s history as a first step to understanding my own national identity was a shared sentiment and subject I found young and older artists actively working on. The wealth of archival resources I encountered provided an entrée into how local artists were re-presenting and re-imagining their own cultural history(ies) through their work.

Untitled (3) … [Letter to the Sky] is the third work in the Prison Anxieties series I began in 2011. This project looks at the emotional stories of violence, death, escape, transition and will for freedom through Ghana’s colonial past. San Antonio (where the residency was based) had an aura that reminded me of Ga Mashie—specifically Ussher town and James town in Accra. The towns, about 500 miles apart, share compounded narratives of invasion, violence, trade and are now haunted by those memories.

The work addresses the perception of my own identity as a state in crisis—a construction that needed to be broken down and re-constructed. My intention was to make work that signified remembrance of Santiago de Cali’s colonial beginning—the year 1536—by dealing with the Iglesia La Merced as the oldest existing architecture exacerbated by also being the site where the city was founded.

The La Merced complex is constituted of the Museo Arqueológico La Merced [Archaeological Museum], Museo Arte Colonial La Merced [Museum of Colonial and Religious Art] and the Iglesia La Merced [Our Lady of Mercy Convent Church]. This creates a fascinating juxtaposition of institutions constantly engaging history and contextualizing it for contemporary consumption.

The histories present within La Merced complex made it a compelling beginning point to my study of Colombia’s cultural past—Santiago de Cali specifically. The installation, when perceived in relation to the physical content within the museums’ walls, became the symbolic gesture that initiates a concrete encounter with history for the observer.

Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh lives and works in Ghana. In 2009, he received his BFA (Painting) degree from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana. In 2014, Ohene-Ayeh participated in a group OFF exhibition during the 11th Dak’Art Biennale in Senegal titled Dear Dakar. He has done residencies with CCA–Lagos (Àsìkò International Art School) in Dakar and Lugar a dudas in Santiago de Cali, Colombia. In March 2015, he curated the Voyage of [Re]Discovery exhibition at the Ussher Fort Prison and Nubuke Foundation gallery in Accra. He co-curated Silence Between The Lines: Anagrams of Emancipated Futures, organized by Ɛyɛ Contemporary Art Ghana and the Contemporary Art Center, College of Art in the same year. Ohene-Ayeh participated in the Curatorial Intensive program in Marrakech organized jointly by Dar al-Ma’mûn, Marrakech, and Independent Curators International, New York, in May 2015. He is currently working on Prison Anxieties—a research project that investigates Ghana’s colonial history through collaborative and curatorial projects—and is pursuing his MFA at the KNUST. For more information you can visit https://iubeezy.wordpress.com/.