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ANA Spotlight: Noldor Art Residency

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In this spotlight series, we interview and showcase artists and their work to our community

Noldor Artist Residency is Ghana’s first independent arts residency and fellowship program for contemporary African artists, located in Accra, Ghana. Founded by contemporary African art specialist, social entrepreneur and philanthropist Joseph Awuah-Darko, the new senior and junior fellowship programs extend Noldor’s continuous support to contemporary artists from Africa and its diaspora. 

Working alongside the annual artist resident and senior fellow, Noldor’s inaugural junior fellows, emerging Ghanaian artists Abigail Aba Otoo (b. 1997, Accra) and Joshua Oheneba-Takyi (b. 1997, Kumasi) have set their studios in the adjoining building, accessible through a connecting bridge and recently renovated as a shared warehouse space topped by designated studios for each fellow. 


In this series, we ask the two junior fellows a couple of questions to gain more insight into who they are.


Joshua Oheneba-Takyi

Born in Kumasi, Ghana, Joshua Oheneba-Takyi demonstrated an affinity for the arts at an early age, using it as a child as a coping mechanism to make up for his dyslexia.

The 23-year-old self-taught artist tells us about his inability to write properly, following an attempt by his primary school teachers to switch him from being left-handed to right-handed. This led him to use drawings as a means of expression and was the beginning of his artistic journey. He went on to recreate childhood stories and tv scenes by drawing characters and scenes on his sketchpad. During his time after junior high, he set off to create his first collection of art.

Joshua Oheneba-Takyi
Teal Lady, 2021
Acrylic on canvas
200 x 300 cm

Oheneba-Takyi pursued a degree in Construction Technology and Management at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (2020), all the while finetuning his artistic practice through conscientious self-teaching. During the second year of his studies, he realised that he no longer wanted to pursue his degree. He knew then that he was going to be a full-time artist and began full-time studio practice and started producing works weekly. 


Oheneba utilised social media platforms, specifically Twitter to share his works and expand his reach. It was when one of his artworks blew up that Noldor’s founder, Joseph discovered and began representing the artist. 


The 12-month residency provides the space and resources for the artist to express himself. It also offers continuous feedback and learning opportunities. Set to end his residency in December 2021, Oheneba is looking forward to getting his own studio and using that time to delve deeper into his visual language. He believes in creating daily to maximise his artistic expression.

Joshua Oheneba-Takyi
Orange Lady, 2021
Acrylic on canvas
210 x 140 cm

“I look up to the sky as my biggest source of inspiration because every day it changes. As big as it is, there’s never a day where it stays the same. The inspiration I get from that is to explore possibilities and do new things”.

As a self-taught artist, Joshua draws inspiration and learns from the works of other great artists.

“I might look at someone for how to paint a hand, and for another person, how to paint a leg.”


His advice to younger artists:
“The late nights in the studio, all the practice you’re doing right now, even though it may not make sense right now, it’s for a purpose. It sharpens your mind so don’t stop doing it”

The artist is working towards two shows for this year. A solo show and a group show.


Abigail Aba Otoo

Born in Accra, Ghana, Abigail Aba Otoo (b. 1997) is currently completing a Pharmaceutical Doctorate Student at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Actively pursuing her artistic practice in tandem with her studies, Aba Otoo explores existential themes around the Black female form, addressing issues from mental health to female identity. Using her signature mixed-media approach, which incorporates panty hose, plastic, gold leaf, and chalk, Aba seeks to create evocative, subtly figurative sculptural compositions on canvas.

What inspires you to create?  

My inspiration for creating stems directly from my knowledge of a purpose for this precious gift that I  have: to make art. I find personally that art is a powerful tool that evokes so much emotion. It communicates. I believe that the art I create should bring peace, spark an intense feeling of euphoria and start conversations relevant to my society that are derived from lived experiences.  

What attracts you to the different mediums you use?  

I love and deeply strive to be different. Being at Noldor has truly enabled me to explore wider mediums and I’ve felt empowered to think outside the box. Profoundly awe-inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s ready-made approach, I’ve taken pleasure in working with intimate materials used by women in the domestic environment such as panty hose. With this, I engage a mixed media approach throughout my practice such as plastic, gold leaf, oil pastel and chalk. 

Abigail Aba Otoo
She Rides and Reigns, 2021
Mixed media on canvas
72 x 72 x 72 cm
Photography by Francis Kwame Dotse

Is there a message you try to pass with your art? If yes, what is it?  

As a practitioner in a patriarchal society – and a very opinionated one at that – my sculptural compositions on canvas explore existential themes of the Black female form in an entirely non sexualized manner. My body of work is quite personal as it also addresses ways in which I’ve experienced simply being a woman and touches on issues pertaining to mental health and female identity.  

What is your creative process like?  

My creative process is actually quite organic and free-flowing. I’m like a sponge in the way in which I  absorb information from memory, books and life happening around me. When an idea is born or when there is a potent point I want to communicate, I carefully consider the placement and manner of said placement of all the materials I seek to include based on their significance. As a scientist, I am interested in the nature of materiality, and a lot of research goes into better understanding the multiple mediums and how to visually manipulate them. This can take a few hours to several days depending on the scale of the piece.

What’s your favourite piece of art you’ve ever created?  

It’s hard to say to be honest, but I have a unique affinity for a triangular composition of mine – She  Rides and Reigns, 2021. I can hardly put my finger on it, but the uncanny strength it emanates always surprises me in the most interesting way.  

What do you do to unwind?  

I’m very lucky that Accra [Ghana] is filled with beautiful spaces to visit. Whether it’s going for walks in breathtaking botanical gardens like Aburi or going to the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum or even  Sandbox Beach Club famously designed by Sir David Adjaye; my love for good architectural, interior and exterior design offered by Ghana relaxes me instantly. My mood is transcended when surrounded by beauty.

Author

Azeeza Sanni is the General Manager of Art News Africa. She is a graduate of Middlesex University of Mauritius & Monash South Africa. You can reach her with information/requests on mail@artnewsafrica.com.

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