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Paa Joe and Elisabeth Efua Sutherland

Time Out Accra's Flo Maats gets wowed by an impressive exhibition.

Written by
Daniel Neilson

Ake yaa heko // One does not take it anywhere 

On Tuesday 21st November 2017, Gallery 1957 welcomed an exclusive group of guests to witness the collaboration of world-famous coffin designer, Paa Joe, and modern performance artist, Elisabeth Efua Sutherland, in their portrayal of traditional funeral customs in Ghana.

We were impressed as soon as we walked though the doors, but the real star of the show was the performance that accompanied the opening of this unique exhibition.

Guests were led up the escalators by a drumming procession headed by Paa Joe himself, while traditional music and dancing increased our anticipation of what was about to take place.

Efua Sutherland’s performance captivated everyone’s imagination and took all our breaths away. A wave of dancers carried in a young girl on a boat, whose death, traditional mourning, funeral and journey to the afterlife were depicted through dance and music. The performance allowed onlookers to move along with it and travel on the journey through the water to the afterlife with the performers.

Inspired by Ga and Fante funerals, the coastal hometowns of both artists, there was also a direct coastal theme. The performance eventually ended in the Gallery itself, where Paa Joe looked on as people admired his specially curated collection of coffins and the performance of the afterlife that went along with it. Coinciding with his 70th birthday celebration, Paa Joe stated it was an immense honour and a sort of ‘homecoming’ to have this collection exhibited in his home of Ghana at this special milestone in his life, having exhibited in London, New York and Paris previously. When asked what his favourite piece was, a decision impossible to make for every artist, Paa Joe said he loved Shikoshiko and Nsumnam (the octopus and the fish) the most - two pieces that clearly drew the most crowds too.

Attendees were beyond impressed by the whole evening, and left discussing the juxtaposition of the contemporary performance to the afterlife versus the traditional Ga work of Paa Joe’s fantasy coffins. Inspired by the Ga proverb ‘Ake yaa heko’ meaning ‘one does not take it anywhere’, this exhibition definitely took us to a special place, and is well worth the visit. 

The exhibition in Gallery 1957 lasts until the 12 January 2018. Don't miss it. 

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