Nana Danso Awuah-Asante: From Soul to Humanity – A Retrospective of Works (2018-2024)

Nana Danso Awuah-Asante, Tu fa aseɛ , 2021, Acrylic, Charcoal and Ink on Paper

La Foundation for the Arts (LAFA) is pleased to announce From Soul to Humanity  a solo presentation of works created by Ghanaian artist Nana Danso Awuah-Asante between 2018-2024.

Co- curated by london-born curator Chantel Akworkor Thompson and artist liaison Calvin Ayivie, From Soul to Humanity is a retrospective that takes us on an evolutionary  journey of the artist Nana Danso Awuah-Asante- showcasing works from 2018, when he was practicing under the moniker Artsoul Kojo, to today, diving deep into the expansiveness of his visual explorations and experimentations. A  chronological representation of  his creative ingenuity, the exhibition demonstrates the sheer versatility of an artist who can be defined only by his name: Nana Danso Awuah-Asante.

The works on display which were produced between 2018-2021, when he was known as Art Soul Kojo, are primarily paper works.  The drawings and paintings  feature the fluidly, yet confidently drawn spirits or communicators which have become a defining feature of his work. The strong definition of the mark, alongside the fluid more float-like curves of forms created hint to the fact that intuition is guiding the work.   There is a sense of both playfulness and reverence within these images, with the proverbial titles, written exclusively in Akan, imbuing the work with sanctity. One cannot help but  be aroused by the images, which provoke deep reflection as one grapples with decoding the various signs and symbols that are interwoven into the fabric of the image.

From 2021 as he transitions into signing off as Nana Danso , you witness a proliferation  of creative outcomes, and in 2022 his creativity seems to have no bounds. It is within this time period that we see the works he has titled:  Sexual Intentions. These abstract works  make up a captivating series that delves into the intricate aspects of lustful imagery through fluid movements and swirls. These abstract visual forms investigate the formation of self, illustrating how streams of fluid merge to create a new being. The series captures the formative stages of existence, right at the moment when male and female essences unite. Through these dynamic compositions, Nana Danso also represents the intense and ephemeral experience of the petite mort, bringing a profound exploration of desire and creation to life on canvas.

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Nana Danso Awuah-Asante, Sexual Intentions Ii , 2022, Acrylic, Charcoal And Ink On Canvas

Following this, we’re provided a gift of friendship in these  unseen oil  paintings from a collection titled  Sauce Gumbo. The paintings celebrate the close to a decade friendship and shared experiences between artists Nana Danso and Nana Yaw Oduro. Through this collaborative project, they set out to create a powerful narrative that intertwined paintings and photographs, telling a story of their journey together as a memorial. These paintings capture the artists’ shared experiences and the emotions associated with their friendship as a means to explore the intricate journey of boys as they navigate the passage into manhood, delving into the vulnerabilities and strengths that shape their identities.

The last phase of the exhibition, bringing us into the current day, are his aptly titled ‘wall heads‘. these wooden sculptures by Nana Danso, as he states, are dedicated to all ancestral leaders whose ways continue to guide the present.  They are contemporary representations  or more so  modifications of  ancestral figures once found in west african shrines.

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As well as sharing the versatility of the artist, this exhibition also follows the artist’s personal  journey towards self-actualisation as he sheds his moniker Artsoul Kojo to step into his power as Nana Danso Awuah-Asante. After years of soul searching, he has reached a state closer to his equilibrium. The lessons he has learnt  from walking  this path he has traveled have consolidated what all Ghanaians know. Our rich history, culture and traditions are a very part of our DNA, we cannot separate ourselves from them, and it is within our names that we find certain details of our identity. Our names are a fundamental part of who we are, our past through to our future.

Thompson states that:

‘The  idea  of the exhibition is to be able to display the full breadth of Awuah-Asante’s practice- thus the entirety of him as an artist . Thus far people have experienced him as Artsoul Kojo, which was just an essence of him. Through the work, we get to immerse ourselves in an experiential  visual representation of the personal journey Awuah-Asante has been on as he has traveled a  profoundly life changing path back to himself.

When I first met him in 2020, I became fascinated by the ways in which his work was so permeated and imbued with our shared Akan heritage and traditions. It is evident that he is in some way  deeply connected to our ancestors and through him they are  in conversation with us. There is so much  wisdom in his work, it is  embedded into every swirl, every ebb, every flow of his brush stroked paintings and through them, we observers are not only  offered a window into his soul but we are also forced to connect with our higher selves as we ponder and interrogate further the images and proverbs  that he offers so generously.”
Adepa 2022
Nana Danso Awuah-Asante, Adepa 2022

We can thus conclude that this exhibition is also a way of co-curators Chantel Akworkor Thompson  and Calvin Ayivie paying homage to the tenacity and unwavering desire of Awuah-Asante to preserve Ghanaian history and culture and  remain authentic despite the pressures of society.  They  believe that by delving deep down into his soul, and excavating beyond the surface, before rising up again  like a phoenix to pour out the interior of his soul onto a canvas, for us to observe, he is doing the work of the ancestors and will continue to have a profound effect on humanity and the art scene in Ghana.

An artist who thrives off the lifelong lesson of life, his work is ever-evolving, yet remains truly authentic and indicative of what lies within his soul. Whether Artsoul Kojo or Nana Danso Awuah-Asante, the work can be easily identified by his ‘observers’ – how he refers to those who engage with his work, whether by choice or by circumstance.

About  La Foundation For The Arts:

Founded by Safoa Aïsha Cablye-Gaisie, La Foundation For The Arts (LAFA) is a non-profit service organization with an unwavering commitment to advancing, realizing, and preserving the vision of emerging and unrecognized  art workers and administrators in Ghana through meaningful relationships with the wider african diaspora.

LAFA’s primary objective is to create new, sustainable opportunities and to empower individual artists by providing critical support, professional development tools, and resources for defining and achieving career success.

About The Artists:

Nana Danso Awuah-Asante previously known as Artsoul Kojo, is a Ghanaian contemporary artist whose art has gained recognition through his endless cast of characters and personalities; these address a broad spectrum of universal and existential philosophies with childlike appeal. His childlike strokes and elementary shapes recall the simple yet complex imaginations of the human psyche, laying bare the limitless possibilities of how one can perceive the world.

Nana Danso is a self-taught artist who began painting and creating art extensively as an outlet for coping with anything. As art depicts life , Nana Danso’s symbolism portrays the reaction between the world and him. His work fuses aspects of storytelling, poetry combined with an impressionist and pop-art visual look.

About The Curators:

Chantel Akworkor Thompson

Chantel Akworkor Thompson is an independent curator  and educator based in Ghana. She has curated shows in Accra, New york and Paris, working predominantly with african artists, including Amoako Boafo, Adjei Tawiah & Aplerh-Doku Borlabi. Founder of beyond the black canvas, she amplifies the voices of black artists and supports  early-career artists in ghana, bridging the knowledge gap between home studio and the international art market.  Through her art collection, she aims to create a visual archive of her lived experience as a british born Ghanaian, documenting the moments that have shaped her identity. she also worked on the world reimagined project (the uk’s largest national art project for racial justice) and was an associate at  the what if experiment, who support organizations within the creative industry to build cultures of accountability with an anti-racist lens. 

Calvin Ayivie 

Calvin Ayivie is a Ghanaian product developer and artist liaison with artsoulkojo studio. With a rich background in african art and african philosophical thought, Calvin is dedicated to documenting, preserving and promoting rich, diverse stories through art. As a co-founder of kalabash.app, he creates a  platform that amplifies the work of Ghanaian artists, making their creations accessible through virtual reality and augmented reality. Currently, Calvin serves as the technology director of the TMC foundation, where he develops workshops and educational materials that integrate technology and art. These initiatives are implemented in rural schools to enhance storytelling and creative problem-solving skills.

for media enquiries please contact: akworkor@lafa.org.gh and enquiries@lafa.org.gh

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