“To every question there is a bigger question; to every text there is a context.” – Ravi Zacharias.
Questioning is important. Such that my entire art practice assumes this posture. When we ask questions we believe them to be relevant and worthy of answers. All questions make assumptions. Sometimes we are unwilling to accept or deal with what the inherent assumptions of our questions elicit in terms of responses or answers. There are self-defeating questions which are not always wrong — as they can determine the starting point into a potential conversation — but only give away the extent to which the questioner had considered their own presuppositions. Not always do questions require answers. Some simply do not, and intend their propositions to function, at the same time, as inquiry and answer.
I have questions about what I have become. The national identity I have inherited since I was born and no doubt affirm. I seek to learn how it came into existence for I know that it has not always been — not in the form it is in now, a nation state. What are the events, sentiments and passions which necessitated and produced this form of identity: that its bearer is burdened with and must exude when journeying through this world? I seek to learn the presuppositions (historical, linguistic, cultural, political) undergirding my national identity so I can be able to position myself in relation to the next person who has a different national affiliation.
Notion: 06 03 is the current work I am developing in residency at Gasworks. It is in continuation of Prison Anxieties, a research series I begun in 2011 which investigates colonial histories. The title punningly juxtaposes the days on which The Bond of 1844 was signed and when the British government granted independence to the then Gold Coast (1957). Both events, although separated by 113 years, happened on the 6th day of March respectively.
The Bond is presumed to have laid the legal foundation for subsequent British colonisation of the coastal area of the Gold Coast. In essence, the Bond certified a diminution of the Chiefs’ juridical powers ceding them to the British crown which then begun the formal annexation of the Gold Coast as British colony. According to J. B Danquah, the declaration of Independence marked “the liberation of the chiefs and the people of the Gold Coast from the legal effect of the Bond of 1844.”(1) He expounds further to say that “[T]he first axiom or self-evident truth of the Bond is therefore that the Chiefs who signed it placed the exercise of certain specified ancient rights and liberties, for instance the right to constitute their own courts, in bondage to the Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”(2)
Notion: 06 03 captures two moments in Gold Coast/Ghana[ian] cultural history and critiques the constitution of its national identity through its flag. The title of the work advances a theory which identifies the link between the day on which the Bond was signed and the day Independence was granted to the Gold Coast. It explores the long journey between these two points in Gold Coast/Ghana[ian] political history and establishes them as broad timelines within which many meaningful events occurred in producing the entity known, politically, as the ‘Ghanaian’ today.
I borrow from the figurative and relativistic language of the Asafo flag — a culture of flag-making dating back at least until the seventeenth century, appropriated from the British colonialists’ use of their own flag by Fante military factions — to begin to rethink or reinterpret what it means for me to uphold this sense of nationalistic identification today. The Asafo flag also enables me to branch into an entirely new world of aesthetics, form, and materiality that aligns with my inquiry.
For the open studio at Gasworks (December 5th 2015), I featured a hand-made Asafo flag, sketches and excerpts from writings of authors on subjects of nationhood, race, the Gold Coast and Ghanaian colonial/ political history.
In a broader sense, I am asking questions and am happy to follow wherever the information may lead. As I make work and think about what I do, the question has become less about what art means and more about what art does… it has transcended cerebrality a cerebral place into concrete reality.
(1) Danquah J.B. “The Historical Significance of the Bond of 1844”. Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana, Vol. 3, No. 1 (1957), pp. 3-29. Web. JSTOR. 1 Nov. 2015.