The First Day of the Yam Custom

The First Day of the Yam Custom

From August 7 to September 30, 2017, Gallery 1957 will present a new body of work by Ghanaian artist Godfried Donkor.

The artist’s new body of work reimagines an illustration by the 19th century English explorer Thomas Bowdich, now held in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London and thought to be the first recorded image of the visual aesthetic and culture of the Asante region of Ghana. The First Day of the Yam Custom, depicts a procession from the annual Asante yam festival in Kumasi, an event held to mark the first harvest of yams during the autumn season. Sent to West Africa by the Royal African Company – a British commerce corporation, Bowdich was employed to negotiate a treaty with the king of the Asante region, Osei Bonsu. His image, and verbal description of the 1817 procession, was documented in his resulting publication, Mission From Cape Coast Castle to Asantee.

With a career spanning almost three decades, Donkor’s complex and multi-layered portrayals of historical events combine reality and fiction through collage, painting, drawing and photography. Working across continents and cultures, his sociological explorations consider the shared histories of Africans and Europeans.

Using installation, painting and collage on board, Donkor’s exhibition will reinterpret this scene on a life-size scale. The exhibition follows the artist’s 4 month residency in Ghana with Gallery 1957.

Godfried Donkor was born in 1964 in Kumasi, Ghana. He holds a Bachelor of arts degree from Central St Martins and SOAS in London and a Masters degree from Escolla Massana in Barcelona. Donkor has lectured widely at universities globally including University of the Arts London; Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi; University of Lancaster; Nottingham Trent University; Otis College of Art and Design, California; and Art Center College of Design, California.

Donkor has exhibited widely across Africa, Europe and the United States including Abolition 07, Hackney Museum, London (2007); Trade and Empire: Remembering Slavery, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (2007-2008); Black Germany, Haus de Kunst, Munich (2012); Hollandaise, Raw Material Company, Dakar (2013); How far how near, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2014 -2015); Speaking of People: Ebony, Jet and Contemporary Art, Studio Museum, Harlem (2014 -2015); Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington D.C. (2014-2016); EVA International – Ireland’s Biennial (2016); and Afriques Capitales, La Villiette, Paris (2017).

Museum collections which hold works by the artist include The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester; Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington D.C.; National Collection of Senegal; World Bank collection, Washington D.C.; Art Omi, Ghent, New York; Unilever collection; University of Helsinki; and National Gallery of Botswana.

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