On a recent trip to Ghana, I sat with a group of women with whom I had traveled and we talked about the enormous value of the extracted export of people from the continent. We imagined what it might mean if there truly was a “Great Return,” and with that, an enrichment of lives lived within a majority population directly tied to our ancestral roots, with measures of creativity that are derived from within our own majority community.
At almost the same time, Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks exhibit was opening at the Seattle Art Museum. Boafo is quoted as saying, “I want to paint people who have had the same experiences as me.” While the women and I were not talking about creating images, we were essentially exploring the possibility of living within a common experience; an experience that heightens our connection to the souls (and spirits) of Black folks.
Boafo is also quoted as saying, “I want to see myself and I want people to see themselves in me.” Presence, Beauty, and Power are the words used to describe the work of Amoako Boafo, but they might also be used to describe his vision.
Having attained much success as an artist outside of Ghana, Boafo recognized the need to make space for artists at home, replacing the need to be seen by Eurocentric eyes in order to succeed. He used his success and his power, mixed in the architectural beauty delivered by Sir David Adjaye, and created a solid presence in his home of Accra to open dot.ateliers, an art gallery, café, studio, and library. It was a dream realized by Boafo to combine his passion for community and his love for creative expression.
In his exhibit currently on view at SAM, the work of Boafo is speaking to the shared soulful experiences of Black people throughout the diaspora. And through his work, he is creating spaces for an expanded Black gaze to define and value African art at home.