‘Unraveled Threads’: Ghanaian Artist Zorah Opoku’s Latest Work Focuses On Kente & Identity

‘Unraveled Threads’: Ghanaian Artist Zorah Opoku’s Latest Work Focuses On Kente & Identity

There’s something very powerful about the way Ghanaian photographer Zohra Opoku has reclaimed her family’s narrative in her latest collection of screen prints, “Unraveled Threads,” debuting in a solo show at the Armory in NYC this week.
In the screen sprints, the artist layers images of her late Ghanaian father over fabric patterned after kente cloth found in his wardrobe. “Identity is always, for me, based in textile,” Opoku reveals.

Though the German-born artist didn’t connect with her father, or know much about her Ghanaian heritage, until she was an adult, in “Unraveled Threads,” she takes a very traditional cloth—kente—and uses it to enhance her family’s history, presenting her father as an Asante leader.

Her work explores what it means to grow up in the West, and later, confront a set of ideas about blackness, Africa, and belonging—as both an artist and a woman.

“Coming from the West, and using this traditional setup, it’s a very sensitive subject to explore,” Opoku mentions. “Kente has over a thousand different designs, and every one of them has meaning. There are certain ones in particular just for royal families. There’s kente from Nigeria, kente from Togo; but the Ghanaian one is very popular.”

The collection consists of blurred images of her father screen printed onto Ghanaian kente, as well as original images of Opoku and her siblings in the recreated kente pattern. The cloth serves as a literal thread between child and father—a spiritual connection to a man Opoku only knew for a short while before he passed away.

“It has this blurry effect of images and memories, to show how we are connected to our own imagination and memories. It’s a collage of information and storytelling—of my father, but also my brothers and sisters.”

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