Serge Attukwei Clottey puts Africa at the centre of global communication

Ghanaian artist, Serge Attukwei Clottey, speaks to ART AFRICA about his installation, Kusum Gboo Ga at the Facebook Headquarters in San Francisco.

Serge Attukwei Clottey is known for work that examines the powerful agency of everyday objects, exploring personal and collective narratives that are politically located in histories of both trade and migration. For his work to be exhibited at Facebook’s HQ – the centre of an organization that reaches almost every corner of the globe, influencing all aspects of daily life and commerce – seems a monumental and perfect fit.

Central to Serge Attukwei Clottey’s dialogue with Ghana’s cultural history is the notion of performance as a daily activity – therefore it is no surprise that Clottey’s latest installation can be found at the Facebook headquarters in San Francisco.

Cutting, drilling, stitching and melting found materials, Clottey’s sculptural installations are bold assemblages that act as a means of inquiry into the languages of form and abstraction.

 

Serge Attukwei Clottey installing his work Kusum Gboo Ga (Tradition never dies) at the Facebook headquarters, 2018.Serge Attukwei Clottey installing his work Kusum Gboo Ga (Tradition never dies) at the Facebook headquarters, 2018.

 

The Facebook commission is just the start of Clottey’s engagement with the USA, which will also see him take part in Right at the Equator a major contemporary African art exhibition and public programme opening at the San Francisco Art Institute, in September 2019.

ART AFRICA spoke to Clottey about his work up at Facebook, Kusum Gboo Ga (Tradition Never Dies) – a concept that confronts material culture through the utilization of yellow gallon containers. Kusum Gboo Ga affords Africa the opportunity to have a positive impact on global communication, from Facebook – the very heart of contemporary human connection.

ART AFRICA: The international art world is very much a ‘Western Contructed Institution’. As a Ghanaian artist what have some of the biggest challenges been to build and develop your career?

Serge Attukwei Clottey: Honestly I’ve not paid that much attention to the preamble to this question. For me it’s always been about translating the stories of my community, Ghana and Africa in my art. My art is getting international (including the west) recognition right now because many people, especially Black people across the world, can relate to the narratives I explore. The biggest challenge for me has been getting my people, I mean my community to understand the importance of my work to the community. But gradually many people are grasping the general relevance of art in Ghana and so that’s what I’ll say is helping to develop my career.

Have you used any disruptive strategies to get ahead and what advice do you give young artists who look to you as a role model?

I’ll say my knack to claim spaces with my performances. My ability to ‘hijack’ public spaces. Most times people are afraid to get into public spaces to perform or showcase their work because they’ve not gone through a bureaucratic process to acquire permission to do things there. Sometimes if you try to go through these processes your works are censored, especially if it critiques certain social constructs. For my collective and me we go into public spaces and do our performance and leave. Also, we just don’t go and forcefully take these spaces from the people who are there, we negotiate these spaces and we do it by making our performances an audience inclusive work. I’ll only tell young artists to work on narratives that best fit their works and be bold in engaging the politics they want to explore in their work. They shouldn’t work because they want to get into the art market and become famous. In that case, their works may lack value and integrity.

 

Serge Attukwei Clottey installing his work Kusum Gboo Ga (Tradition never dies) at the Facebook headquarters, 2018.Serge Attukwei Clottey installing his work Kusum Gboo Ga (Tradition never dies) at the Facebook headquarters, 2018.

 

Do you think the Facebook commission will have an impact on the profile of African artists, and what message does your work living there send to the world?

There are many factors that are currently impacting the profiles of African artists, for example, Ibrahim Mahama was commissioned to do a large piece at the Venice Biennale. And that was a big deal. Many other things are happening in that sense, and so if this facebook commission will also contribute to it then I’ll be happy about that.  For me, the important thing about this project is getting the chance to share my community with the world. Myself and many other people from my community did this work, and so that’s what makes me more excited about it. It’s a product of community effort. If anybody goes to the Facebook HQ and sees the work, the information they’ll get on it will lead them to the San Francisco community.

I heard you have an upliftment/development programme of your own, would you care to tell us more about it?

I’m working on further developing the ‘Follow the Yellow Brick’ project. The project is aimed at tracing, and properly documenting the migration histories of my family from Jamestown to LA. I Will release more information as and when the project progresses.

 

Serge Attukwei Clottey installing his work Kusum Gboo Ga (Tradition never dies) at the Facebook headquarters, 2018.Serge Attukwei Clottey installing his work Kusum Gboo Ga (Tradition never dies) at the Facebook headquarters, 2018.