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Atta Kwami

Artist Bio »


Atta Kwami is an artist, art historian and curator. He first studied art informally with his mother, Grace Salome Kwami (1923-2006), a first generation African modernist artist trained at the Kumasi College of Technology in the 1950s.  Kwami later studied at the University in Kumasi, under other college-trained painters. He has been a participant in international artists' workshops and residencies in Africa, Europe and the United States. Since 2003 he has coordinated the SaNsA International Artists' Workshop in Ghana. He completed his doctorate in art history at The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK, in 2007. Formerly a Senior Lecturer, he taught painting and printmaking for twenty years at the College of Art, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi. Kwami has exhibited in both group and solo exhibitions in Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria, South Africa, Namibia as well as extensively in Europe and the USA. His work is held in major public collections including the National Museums of Ghana and Kenya; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, where he was recipient of the 2010 UCLA Phillip L. Ravenhill Fellowship. His work Kokrobite, 2007, is currently displayed in the British Museum. In 2008 Kwami won a grant from the Ghana Cultural Fund for the publication of his book, Kumasi Realism, 1951–2007: An African Modernism (Hurst Publishers Ltd., 2011). He lives and works in Kumasi and Loughborough, UK, and is married to the artist Pamela Clarkson.

Artist Statement »


The qualities I seek in my work are: clarity, simplicity, intensity, subtlety, architectonic structure, musicality (rhythm and tone), wholeness and spontaneity. So many strands inevitably manifest themselves in painting: jazz, the timbre of Ghanaian music (Koo Nimo), improvisation, arrangements of merchandise and so forth. I also see corresponding aesthetic commonalities with wall paintings and music from northern Ghana, the limited range of earth colors and the pentatonic scale of the xylophone. Poetry is able to sustain the life of language through new forms of usage. In painting it is also re-interpretation, improvisation and variation that affect innovation and development.