Gallery 1957 at UNTITLED, ART Miami Beach. Joana Choumali and Godfried Donkor. 4 – 8 December 2019
Following a successful 2018 debut, Gallery 1957 are pleased to return to UNTITLED, ART Miami Beach, showing works by Joana Choumali and Godfried Donkor (4-8 December 2019). Their presence at this year’s UNTITLED coincides with Ghana’s official “Year of Return” – a year-long initiative encouraging members of the African diaspora to visit the country, reflecting on 400 years since the beginning of the ‘Middle Passage’.
Ivorian artist Joana Choumali unites collage, embroidery, quilting and photomontage to create mixed media works. Following the 13 March 2016 terrorist attacks in Grand-Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire, Choumali instinctively turned to embroidery as a way to process the trauma of the event. Rather than dismiss her feelings with the favored Ivorian maxim “Ça va aller” (“It will be OK”), she chose to explore them via the gesture of slowly stitching, sometimes over several months. Richly worked, the pieces reflect not only the artist’s physical touch, but also her emotional evolution as she used this new way of art making to both process this moment of national grief, and face challenges in her personal life.
A cathartic and deeply intimate technique, Choumali found that what began as “a quiet diary” became a means of communication when she shared the resulting works publicly. Transposing her inner landscape on top of the visible world, Choumali overlays gauzy panels of embroidered chiffon and tulle on collaged photographs of figures and cityscapes. In November, Choumali became the first African artist to win the prestigious Prix Pictet global photography prize.
Godfried Donkor’s painting works were created following a seven-month residency with the gallery at the beginning of 2019, bringing together over 20 years of research by Donkor into boxing, slavery and intercontinental trade relationships.
Using the history of pugilism as the cornerstone of his extensive research, Donkor explores the relationship between boxing and the slave trade within the UK, US and Ghana, citing events such as “battles royal”, where white men would force black slaves to fight to the death until there was only one man standing. From aristocrats fighting peasants in the UK, to plantation owners staging matches for slaves in the US, Donkor’s work examines the social-historical relevance of boxing as ‘the art of self-defence’.
Interested in the origin of boxing within Ghana, Donkor’s work explores how amateur boxers within the British Army brought the sport to the ‘Gold Coast’ in the 18th century. As part of his residency, Donkor also visited contemporary boxing gyms in Jamestown, Accra – a place known as the home to an unprecedented number of world boxing champions, and also the first port of settlement for the British in Ghana.
About Joana Choumali
Joana Choumali, born in 1974, is visual artist and photographer based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. She studied graphic arts in Casablanca, Morocco and worked as an art director in an advertising agency before embarking on her photography career. She works mainly on conceptual portraits, mixed media and documentary photography. Much of her work focuses on Africa, and what she, as an African, learns about the innumerable cultures around her.
Choumali has exhibiting internationally including at the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden, Marrakech; the Vitra Design Museum, Basel; Zeitz Mocaa Museum of Contemporary Arts, Capetown and Lagos Photo Festival. In 2017, she exhibited her series ‘Translation’ and ‘Adorn’ at the Pavilion of the Ivory Coast during the 57th Venice International Biennale. Her book HAABRE, was published and edited in Johannesburg in 2016.
Choumali was awarded the Prix Pictet photography prize in November 2019 for her recent series ‘Ca va aller’ (2016-2019) where the theme for its eighth cycle is ‘Hope’.
About Godfried Donkor
Godfried Donkor is a British-Ghanaian mixed-media artist interested in the socio-historical relationships of Africa and Europe. Born in Kumasi, Ghana in 1964, Donkor left at the age of eight, growing up between Spain and England before completing a BA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins, London and an MA in African Art History at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London.
Donkor’s work is included in international collections such as: Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Smithsonian Museum of African Art – Washington D.C; Studio Museum, Harlem; Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester; Spanish Sports Council Collection; National Collection of Senegal; University of Helsinki; and National Gallery of Botswana.
Selected group and solo exhibitions include: David Adjaye: Making Memory, Design Museum, London (2019); The First Day of the Yam Custom: 1817, Gallery 1957, Accra (2017); Afriques Capitales, Parc de la Villiette, Paris (2017); and Still the Barbarians, EVA International Ireland’s Biennial, Limerick (2016).
He lives and works across London, UK and Accra, Ghana.
About Gallery 1957
Based in Accra and working internationally, Gallery 1957 has a curatorial focus on West Africa. The gallery presents a programme of exhibitions, installations and performances by the region’s most significant artists currently bridging the gap between local and international practices. Founded by Marwan Zakhem in 2016, Gallery 1957 has evolved from over 15 years of private collecting. Opened in 2017, Gallery 1957 II is the gallery’s second space, situated in Accra’s Galleria Mall. The gallery serves as a vital platform, promoting West Africa’s presence within the art scene by hosting ambitious exhibitions, providing resources for residencies and participating in international art fairs.