The words text and textile share a common Latin root with the word texere, meaning to weave. But the connections are more than simply linguistic, they are also cultural and historical: from books wrapped or bound in cloth, to tapestries and embroideries used to depict legends, fairy tales, and other narratives. My work resides at the intersection of the cultural and historical where textiles, those relatively commonplace objects such as scraps, threads, and the patterns they merge to create are meaningful, both symbolically and culturally. This is especially true in West Africa, where they are considered to be treasures, heirlooms, and mediums through which the average person can literally weave their personal and collective narratives.
As a Ghanaian-born woman artist, I find that engaging with textiles provides a unique path toward (re)claiming agency in self-expression. In my work, I examine the histories of West African textiles, focusing specifically on their significance to a particular region, how they have been constructed, what they are used for and what sorts of materials are used in making them. I am also interested in taking apart the values assigned to these textiles, often defined by gender and as belonging to the domestic sphere; in practice that means literally taking apart the textile itself so that it exists as a sum of its parts. These parts are what I reinterpret by employing a range of materials that I then use to construct and reconstruct what becomes my work.
The “piecing-together” or weaving what symbolically becomes a new material text for the audience to read and engage with requires a repetitive process, one that emphasizes the time, effort, and labor often associated with traditional weaving methods. Techniques include the more conventional weaving, threading, and stringing of organic materials while incorporating other objects such as hand-sanded glass beads and bits of wire to create works that reference and pay homage to traditional textiles while expanding the definition and function of the final product. In doing so I aim to push the limits of what a textile can be and often incorporate dimensionality into the works I create, making the space as important as the artwork itself. Transforming the space is a crucial part of my practice because in doing so my work takes on an embodied, sculptural effect, allowing for a multisensory experience where the audience plays an important role in meaning-making, shaping the narrative, and bringing the object to life.