Three contemporary artistes, including an indigenous self-taught textile artiste, have emerged winners of the 2022 Kuenyehia Prize for Contemporary Art.
Daouda Traoré, Odinakachi Okoroafor and Dela Anyah are the winner, first runner-up and second runner-up respectively of the coveted prize set up in 2014.
They were among a pool of 178 artistes across West Africa who submitted their works to a five-person independent jury that analysed the entries based on the trajectory of the artistes’ work and their artistic statement.
Traoré, who was awarded a prize of $5,000 and a plaque, is contemporary artiste from Mali who prides his artworks by giving life to neglected materials such as worn sheets, boxes of preserves, sacks of millet, wire and wool.
His work captures and reflects his daily life experiences, the experience of his society and the world at large, the major challenges facing the world, the multiple crises surrounding immigration and conflicts and the current situation of Malian education.
Okoroafor, on the other hand, is a mixed media artiste from Nigeria whose work is an exploration of detailed and delicate lines, inspired by barcodes and lace patterns.
He uses imagery from his childhood and community and as a point of departure, his paintings examine a Black figure through the lenses of daily life and social and political struggle.
Anyah is a self-taught textile artiste from Ghana who uses the transformation of discarded tyres and tyre tubes to represent classic artworks.
His work focuses on sculpture and installation, drilling, riveting, stitching and repurposing discarded tyres and tyre tubes as an act of sustainability.
The Founder of Kuenyehia Trust for Contemporary Art, Professor Elikem Nutifafa Kuenyehia, called on the public to invest more in art by purchasing artworks for their homes, offices and gifts for their loved ones.
He said the African art ecosystem had a tremendous potential to bring more value to people who invested in it, hence instead of purchasing clothes and hampers as gifts, the public should rather buy artworks as their value increased with time.
“Art is an asset, and we need to invest more in it by buying artworks for our offices, homes and even as gifts for our friends and family instead of clothes,” he said.
That, he justified, was the surest way to support artists on the continent whose work received little recognition on the continent despite their infinite potential.
Prof. Kuenyehia said the narrative about artworks on the continent was improving as demand for art globally began to increase; hence, the need for people to invest in the craft of artistes on the continent.
The Paramount Chief of Essikado Traditional Area, Nana Kobina Nketsia IV, commended the Trust for its efforts in encouraging artistes to put out their best, adding: “Africans like you are doing all kinds of things to uplift the continent and make Ghana distinct”.
The Head of Office and Representative of UNESCO to Ghana, Abdourahamane Diallo, pledged UNESCO’s support to sustain the prize.
The Kuenyehia Prize for Contemporary Art is the flagship programme of the Kuenyehia Trust for Contemporary Art set up by Professor Kuenyehia in 2014 to, among others, promote and advance contemporary African art.
Inspired by the world’s most famous art prize, UK’s Turner Prize, Kuenyehia Prize for Contemporary Art aims to encourage talented West African artistes to pursue their dreams and to support them to build sustainable careers in art.
The Trust provides its artistes with multiple platforms to showcase and promote their work.
These include opportunities to participate in exhibitions, talks and publications.
The prize’s previous winners and shortlisted artistes had opportunities to showcase their works at leading art fairs such as FNB Johannesburg Art Fair and at events in the United States (US) and Spain.
The prominence that the Trust gives to artists provides them with an accelerated career boost, direct financial gain and opportunity, both locally and internationally.
The prize has also built collaborations with renowned cultural institutions, including ANO Gallery, British Council Accra, Alliance Française and the Dei Centre for Contemporary African Art.