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Kwesi Botchway | Accra, Ghana, 1994


Born in Accra, Ghana, in 1994, Kwesi Botchway lives and works in his city of birth, inspiring his artistic representations of Black beauty, joy, and futurity.

Botchway locates himself firmly in the Black Art genealogy, using his work to respond to anti-Blackness as experienced by Africans as well as those in far-flung African diasporas. Resonant across his work is the mission to represent Blackness beyond the limits of dominant narratives, representing its loveliness, vitality, and expansiveness.
Botchway works within the portrait tradition that bears a storied legacy in Western art, reworking it by centering the long-absent and ignored Black figure. Blending styles of French Impressionism and African Realism, Botchway transforms the portrait into a study, not of fixedness of identity but of becoming and possibility. This oeuvre marks a shift from his earlier works, which sit more squarely in the realist style and are heavily influenced by Ghanaian street art traditions. Realism and abstraction also influence the artist’s process of choosing subjects - while many are those Botchway knows from his life, others spring from his imagination or are composites of features he gleans from the world around him.
Refusing to perform for the white gaze, the figures in his recent portraiture exist in the natural beauty of the Black present and the fantastical possibilities of Black futures. They meet the viewer’s gaze directly or turn away from the stare, preserving an aura of mystery that forestalls a total and transparent availability to the audience. Instead, these subjects maintain interior lives that are shielded from public view, inner worlds of fantasy and possibility that signal the richness of Blackness. The face is a significant element in Botchway’s portraits, as he considers it a reflection of the soul. Illustrating his fusion of realism and impressionism, these faces are both recognizable and fantastically surreal. The orange-hued eyes of his subjects signify the more-than-human quality of Blackness. At the same time, the purple that saturates their skin both refuses the racialized meanings dominant culture reads onto Black skin and indexes the colour’s association with royalty to represent the Black figure as a majestic being. Colours, Botchway believes, are characters much like the subjects of his paintings, and so each pigment is chosen with precise and calculated intention. Despite the surreal and private nature of these figures, he aims for these works to be in dialogue with the audience, drawing them into a world in which Black is so much more than what racism connotes it to be, challenging the viewer and broader society to confront the myths of anti-Blackness.


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