Adjei Tawiah’s Exquisite Ode to a Close Mentor’s Legacy

A standout among the lucid, melancholic canvases featured in the emerging Ghanaian painter’s first stateside solo exhibition is a delicately textured portrait of close friend and mentor Amoako Boafo.

Here, we ask an artist to frame the essential details behind one of their latest works.

Bio: Adjei Tawiah, 35, Accra (@adjeitawaiah)

Title of work: The Helper I- How can I help? (2023)

Where to see it: “I Miss Us” at Opera Gallery (791 Madison Ave, New York) until April 11.

Three words to describe it: Enigmatic, heartfelt, deep.

What was on your mind at the time: I was contemplating my relationship with my close friend and mentor Amoako Boafo. I wanted to honor him and pay homage to his legacy because he has been a major driving force in my career and that of many other artists.

An interesting feature that’s not immediately noticeable: The use of a nylon sponge netting material, which is called kotsa in Ghana, and is used for bathing and ceremonial cleansing processes. From afar it’s not easily recognizable, but it’s a very important feature of my work. It acts as a metaphor for healing, cleansing, and renewal. 

How it reflects your practice as a whole: My work is about personhood—exploring and displaying the innate characteristics of humanity. And most importantly, creating images that resonate with all types of people causes them to interrogate their interior worlds and how they interact with wider society.

One song that captures its essence: “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers.

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