Last week, the Alliance Français d’Accra in Ghana unveiled their newly designed mural artwork commemorating International Women’s Day. The project was commissioned to Los-Angeles-based artist Kenturah Davis who hand drew head shots of four women that lived locally in Accra and ‘were doing interesting work that contributes to the community’. This was Davis’ first public commission. She had worked previously on other renowned projects including work completed for the Ray Charles America.
Davis’ is famous for her unique style that she calls ‘drawing with language’ which incorporates a series of repetitive text and illustrations to produce a portrait.
The four women illustrated in the mural were: Lila Macqueen Djaba, founder of non-profit organization the Child Care Foundation; filmmakers Akosua Adoma Owusu and Nana Oforiatta Ayim, and writer Martina Odonkor.
Background (from kenturah.com)
I arrived in Ghana November, 2013. I found myself listening to a lot of Nina Simone, so when the opportunity came to propose a mural for International Women’s Day, I immediately thought of Simone’s “Four Women.” The emotion of this song intensified my experiences as I traveled throughout the country, visiting the slave castles in and grappling with the history of the African diaspora. The theme Alliance Francaise selected for the mural, “Women of the World”, encouraged me to consider subjects of today. Using Simone’s song as a point of departure, I identified four African women who live in Accra and were doing interesting work that contributes to the community. It was important that they not be “famous”; rather, i tried to find a balance between anonymity and admirability.Ultimately, I wanted to create a work of art that portrayed accomplished women with very different personal stories and are tied to the strength and resiliency that Nina Simone conveys in her lyrical narratives. They are symbols of the many more amazing women I’ve encountered in Ghana.
Integral to the process of making the drawing, I had to also identify a text that I would use to render the four women. I finally selected one suggested by a friend; a quote by feminist, Audre Lorde: “I AM DELIBERATE AND AFRAID OF NOTHING.” This simple, yet potent phrase served the dual purpose of declaring their sense of purpose and functioning as a meditation by which i could absorb its meaning for my own benefit. The process of writing a text in repetition to compose the portrait was a metaphor for the way that we acquire and inhabit language. It extended the work into the realm of a performative act, in which the process of making it is as important as the finished piece.Understanding that the advent of the written word arrived as the capacity of human memory deteriorated situates the portraits as a kind of documentation that might extend the reach of collective memory and historical consciousness.