Saturday, July 23, 2016


A few days before celebrating my birthday this year, I was working on Chapter 8 of the book: A Ghanaian Family Reunion, which takes place in the summer of 1991. 

The day I arrived to Accra for the reunion, we celebrated my 13th birthday. This year was the first that Nani's hug or phone call didn't begin my day. Drawing this scene however, made me feel her presence.

It's funny how even the events that I draw in the book parallel those I am living. Or perhaps it's the other way around? Or both?
I am not quite sure. What I do know for certain however, is that throughout the book, in even the most trying moments, there is an overpowering sense of celebration. 

Nani celebrated everything. She would hand us out gift's on my grandfather's birthday, years after he had passed away. 
She remembered hundreds of birthdays and anniversaries. And not just those of her close family (yes we are about a hundred family members more or less), but those of second cousins-twice-removed, sisters-in-law, and encounters on one of her many journeys. In her cupboard she would always had a stack of gifts prepared for any given occasion. Gifts that she had received and felt happier giving away. 

She could celebrate any little thing: a beautiful mantra she liked listen to. She would enjoy modern technology with us 
even if it frightened her at first, like when we took her to the cinema to watch a dinosaur movie, or when we first gave her an iPad for her birthday.

Even the simplest daily habits such as teatime in bed could turn into something of a magical celebration with her.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Ritual is beauty

During my interview for the video of my artist residence, when I was asked to explain what ritual is to me, I replied without thinking: ritual is beauty. It is connecting to yourself. It´s telling yourself a story (or many), acting it out and sharing it. 

Since then, I have thought a lot about rituals and the space they have in my work, my process and my life. 

I learned so much about all of this from my Nani. Her discipline in her daily life turned the smallest daily routine into a ritual. Her grooming, her exercises, her readings, even her family phone calls and watching her Bollywood tv series had something sacred and beautiful about them. I remember one of the first times I ever wore a sari. I must have been 18 years old and spent over an hour in Nani's room in Accra struggling with my aunt over the pleats and pins. Nani entered her room to get dressed and in an instant of absolute grace and elegance she wrapped her white silk muslin sari around her waist and shoulder, swooped up her hair in an elegant bun and walked down to the car. 
I remember it being a breathtaking moment. 
Her ritual was beauty. 

I constantly try to bring these little lessons of hers into my daily life. In my work process, the places I sit to draw, the music I need to listen to while drawing, the tea I drink between lines and colours, to the way I have begun to organize my pencils have turned into little daily rituals.

And then there is the content. The gods and goddesses 
that appear in this book are many. 
Each one has their significance, each with their own characteristics and symbolism. In the narrative, Nani brings these divine beings in childlike form to each of our homes to transmit values, lessons, blessing and well being. 
Their presence in itself is a ritual, as is their form, the objects they carry and the symbols they use. 

Through the rituals of cooking and ceremony, there is much celebration. 
The gods turn into cooking assistants. 

They are offered sweets and flowers. 

They enjoy eating their offerings.

Because, obviously, the gods and goddesses also eat...

as they offer in return nutrition, new beginnings, health, prosperity, well being, abundance, love and light.

In my own little way, through this book I hope to transmit at least some of all of this beauty I am so grateful 
to have received from my Nani.