Work by Swaniker
June 22; ends Wed, July 6, 2011
“PASSAGE OF DISCOVERY”
- AN EXHIBITION OF WORKS BY CONSTANCE SWANIKER AT THE
ARTISTS’ ALLIANCE GALLERY, ACCRA.
At one of Accra’s northern suburbs- Bubuiashie, the
metal forge or smithy is no longer a male domain; there
is a change.
From ancient Egypt, through the Greco-Roman era and in
traditional West African societies, the names of the ur-metallurgists
and masters of metal reverberate through legend, myth
and HIStory-Ogun,Vulcan, Dionysius and Tubalcain.
Without equivocation, Constance Swaniker is following in
their stead and writing HERStory.
Constance Swaniker has turned the art-craft debate on
its head. In the contemporary globalized system of sweat
shops, mass production and knock-offs; Swaniker produces
metal objects that are labor intensive, unique and
superbly crafted yet provocatively dysfunctional.
She draws on themes, tropes and materials (including
wood, cloth, paper and glass) that refer to and
simultaneously unpick and unwrap all the precedents
while at the same time transcending cultural boundaries
whether in time or space.
This gives her pieces a definite originality while she
addresses the fraught Ghanaian identity with a
consistently insightful and intuitive hand….and eye.
She is masterly at summing up the transient notion/idea
of space and belonging in the contemporary Ghanaian
identity; an identity suffused with ghosts of
internalist and externalist violence and exploitation,
but with homegrown/indigenous responses that have
ultimately produced a culture that is rich, genuine,
heart breaking and gut wrenching.
One of these sanguine homegrown responses is a refusal
to see; for to refuse to see is to refuse to act,
thereby ensuring a refusal to become an agent in
ANYONE’S change including YOUR OWN.
The personal “blind spot”/darkness appears when
something is overwhelming or too threatening to be seen-
but sadly, it soon becomes a “communal
darkness”…..perhaps culminating in the stark reality of
over 60% of school children unable to read or write or
two thirds of the population of Accra without toilet
But Swaniker does see and she does act in metal and
more; “CONVERSATION WITH MIRRORS” and “MOMENTUM” tell us
The blank mirror frame in the midst of an apparent
conflagration serves as a signification of our communal
darkness. The totemic bovine with the horns wrapped in
cloth symbolizes a call to action.
In “WALK A MILE IN MY SHOES”, she poignantly attacks our
perennial habit of lateness, irritatingly described as
‘ghanaian time’- we are all over the place as an
appointment is scheduled for one, one thirty, two,
three- and it is not funny.
Her capacity to find the materials, methods and words to
convey her intentions is nowhere more nuanced and at the
same time menacing than in “SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET” and
“SEA NEVER DRY”.
The latter sculpture consistently comes to mind every
time a politician parrots the cliché, “Ghana has a lot
Swaniker’s background is multicultural and
multifunctional; her high school education was in
Southern Africa, she then graduated from KNUST (Ghana)
in 1999 with a major in sculpture. During her time at
university, she worked as a
carpenter’s apprentice for five years.
While this is her first solo exhibition, she is an
acknowledged trailblazer in the wrought iron industry in
Ghana and her workshop and showroom at Bubuiashie are a
must see for high profile architects, high end interior
decorators, stylists and esthetes.
Simply put, from Bubuiashie, Swaniker continues the
traditional indispensible role of the ur-mellaurgist as
a mediator or signifier of civilization, progress and
Her constant awareness of function and experiment as a
zeitgeist has furthermore created an evolving aesthetic
paradigm that is always wicked, fresh and cool. Clearly,
in her corpus, she has struck an elegant balance between
medium, form and technique.
Swaniker’s exertions rise to a crescendo in the piece
“COPING MECHANISM”- are we surprised that even when
weighed down, the larger umbrella is lighter? In “SEA
LIFE”, the exuberant but delicate execution of her
composition ensures that if Poseidon or the Nummo had a
caduceus, this must have been the prototype.
While we may interrogate the efficacy of her work in
changing the world (?reality) -and rightly so, it is a
powerful reminder of the potentiality of art to jolt us
into a greater awareness of ourselves and of society
From Bolgatanga to the sandwiched chaotic kiosks and
containers of Bubuiashie; the living conditions of the
masses signify that our society is pregnant with change-
a fact not lost to the
perceptive or the spiritually wise or the intellectually
Change MUST come….AND it is A COMIN’!!
With this cohesive first exhibition, Swaniker
emphatically positions herself as part of that change.
Nii Bonney Andrews
Blebo We- Sakumo,