BAHM: 2.26.17 Godfried Donkor
Godfried Donkor is a London based artist working in multimedia painting, collage, photography and video. His work addresses the shared history of Africa and Europe and the continued commodification and exploitation of African people in the West. Born in Kumasi, Ghana in 1964, Donkor received his B.A. in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins and in 1995, his M.A. in African Art History from University of London. In 1998, he was awarded the Prix de la Revelation at the Dakar Biennale and in 2001, represented Ghana in the Venice Biennale. He has had several solo exhibitions internationally and his work is featured in the collections of the National Museum of African Art and the Smithsonian.
The boxer is a repeated figure in Donkor’s collage series, From Slave to Champ (1990), which examines the sporting phenomenon as it traversed racial and class segregation in Victorian-era England. Donkor uses archival images to retrace the early African and Caribbean dominance in this sport. Each figure is placed atop archival engraving of slave ships and affixed with a halo, against a background of pages taken from the Financial Times. This history is mirrored in the U.S. with images of Jack Johnson and Muhammed Ali, all while drawing connections between the lucrative slave trade economy and that of the modern day entertainment and sports industries as they commodify black bodies. This series ultimately reads as a celebration of these iconic black athletes, as they were able to rise to prominent positions despite the oppression and inequalities they faced. This formula is again addressed in Donkor’s series Black Madonnas. Images were taken from the glamour and beauty industry in Trinidad and Tobago, to present themes of endurance and celebration, surrounding the Carnival tradition. As the curators behind the 2001 Venice Biennale, Salah Hassan and Olu Oguibe, state in their accompanying text, Authentic/Ex-Centric: Conceptualism in Contemporary African Art, “The idea is to restore complexity to the history of cross-cultural relations and human interaction where such appears to have systematically evaporated.”
Video: Jamestown Masquerade
Articualite: Exploring Exploitation: Interview with Godfried Donkor