Meyina marks the first solo exhibition of El Anatsui – one of the most influential contemporary artists working today – in South Africa which exhibits at the Goodman Gallery Johannesburg from 25 November – 20 December 2017.
Over the past four decades Anatsui has created a vast body of work that has expanded the language of contemporary sculpture in Africa and internationally. Meyina (meaning ‘I am going’ in Ewe), curated by independent curator and the Director of CCA Lagos Bisi Silva, presents a portrait of the artist by bringing together disparate fragments that form a whole. The seven large-scale sculptural installations, which read like intricate tapestries, are composed of thousands of crumpled pieces of metal sourced from local alcohol recycling stations and bound together with copper wire. The works engage with and comment on African history, post-colonial conditions, as well as the daily realities and experiences on the continent. Alongside these recently works constructed out of recycled materials, there will be a collection of archival objects on exhibit, which have been selected by Bisi Silva from Anatsui’s studio, study and library in Nsukka, Nigeria. These include sketchbooks, drawings, letters, exhibition planning and instruction documents; books Anatsui reads and is featured in; as well as brochures and exhibition publications to which he has contributed, especially those of Nigerian artists. On a conceptual level, Meyina explores the notion of a limitless horizon, presenting an immersive space where possibilities become real. Paraphrasing Ghanaian author Kofi Amyidoho, Anatsui states: ‘When I am in the studio it is as if the sky bends down to have a word with the earth.’ Indeed, the works, which can grow to be massive in scale, are simultaneously luminous and weighty, meticulously fabricated, yet malleable.
For Silva, ‘it is always an honour to have the opportunity to work again with El Anatsui … With his scintillating sculptural installations, over the past two decades he has been able to articulate his interest in and study of African History and its post-colonial identity. Through this exhibition I hope to highlight aspects of his artistic practice as well as his professional career of over three decades as a university professor and its impact on several generations of artists, curators and writers from Nigeria, West Africa and across the continent.’ Meyina was first realised at the Prince Claus Gallery, Amsterdam, an exhibition which ran until April this year. El Anatsui was born in Ghana (1944) and has lived and worked in Nsukka, Nigeria since 1975. In his practice, he experiments with local symbolic vocabularies, forms, artisanal processes and materials. Anatsui has featured in many international exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale in 1990 and 2007, the Paris Triennale in 2012 and most recently Marrakech Biennale 6: Not New Now, Morocco (2016) and Atopolis: WIELS @ Mons 2015, Manège de Sury, Belgium, among others. Anatsui is emeritus Professor of Sculpture at the Department of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he taught for over 30 years. In 2015, Anatsui was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement – the Venice Biennale’s highest honour – and in 2009 the artist received the Prince Claus Award. Anatsui’s work is part of the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Centre Pompidou, Paris and the British Museum, London, amongst other public collections.