In Conversation with Efo Sela Adjei

  • Gbontwi Nii Anyetei
  • 1 month ago


How art interacts with philosophy, politics and spirituality are amongst the focuses of one of Ghana’s increasingly familiar art figures Efo Sela Adjei. His work is readily identifiable by his eye-catching use of shapes and clashing colours that dare the viewer to see anything but revolution. Not revolutionary, revolution. Abstract but contrasting, beautiful, unavoidable and, very often, blood spattered revolution. With his work Adjei attempts to dictate what art’s function in society could be, whether it is being fuelled by an African cultural renaissance or being fuelled by it.

New Dawn- What should art be to a society?

Efo Sela Adjei- It could be a service, education, psychology, entertainment, functional device or apparatus, mnemonic device, historical archive, therapy, healing, philosophy. Art could even be considered as laws in certain societies. Certain aspects of sacred Vodu aesthetics are based on spiritual laws and principles.

ND - You don’t talk much about your art, why?

ESA- Creating art is an intense spiritual experience. A third party emerges, spiritual guests – The Vodus. They interact with my creative spirit, pushing me in and out of creative trance as they please. They are the ones doing the painting and all the actions behind scenes, not me. I'm just a vehicle for them to express their profound creativity and cryptic esoteric visual messages. It's like lucid dreaming but once you are fully awake you completely forget all that experience and all the vital information is stored in the artworks they drove you to create. I'm in tune with them when I'm creating the works but once I snap out of that creative trance I'm as clueless as anyone.

Mostly my artworks strive to capture the basic human emotions, our deepest desires, primal drives. The goal is to project all these emotions on canvas, or whatever medium I choose, to express my art or creative statements and generate similar emotions and primal drives in my audience. I used to be under the tyranny of representation in my early days as a young artist but my art has evolved spiritually. I actually make a conscious effort to disengage the rational part of my brain to be able slip into a creative trance to create the kind of works I create.

To perceive and appreciate a work of art is also a great spiritual experience. You don't want to ruin that spiritual experience by looking for the meaning of an artwork.

I'd rather leave my art for art critics/connoisseurs and aestheticians to discuss while I create more art. To appreciate an artwork is even in itself an art.

ND - Do you feel other artists should speak less about their work?


ESA- I can't dictate what another artist should do. French literary critic Barthes argues against practice of incorporating the views or intentions of an author. This distance gives their audience more room to genuinely appreciate and interact with their works. The essential meaning of a work depends on the impressions of the reader, rather than the passions or tastes of the writer. Barthes says: “a text's unity lies not in its origins”, or its creator, “but in its destination” or its audience.

A few artists are very brilliant with using their works to start discussions about delicate social matters or controversial issues, Bright Ackwerh is a typical example. [Artists] must study and know what approach they feel will enhance the overall experience of how their creative works interact with their audience and vice versa.

ND- What about those for whom art appreciation is an issue?

ESA- There's very little education on aesthetics, art criticism and art appreciation. Art critics are also completely absent from our art scene. Perhaps they've been largely been ignored by the very people who need their expertise. I recently came back from Nigeria and their art scene is thriving. I've also been studying intellectual works by Nigerian researchers, art critics, aestheticians, art educators and artists alike. Every professional is involved in their creative art scene. The art scene in Ghana is particularly inundated with "Art Talks" which is essentially an exercise in praising or promoting an artist or his works. A kind of advertising gimmick to seduce their audience or potential collectors to pay attention to the grand conceptual ideas behind their artworks. Completely ignoring the fact that aesthetics and art criticism is more about the awareness of all the inherent qualities in a work of art – the good, the bad, the ugly. Nigerian art critics, curators and aestheticians are taking charge to question the rise of cultural pollution in their art scene. We've taken way too many issues for granted on our art scene and it's weakening our creative structures. I seriously think our art critics and academics need to constantly pay attention to the arts in order to properly address some of these worrying trends.


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