Japheth Asiedu-Kwarteng

Artist Statement

What is in your Diary? Does it bother on negative or positive experiences and encounters; or a bit of both?

My Diary is filled with the not-truly-ordinary life and experiences of a non-immigrant, a mixture of the positives, negatives, and the in-betweens.

The painful sacrifices and hard choices to make

The access, exposure and restrictions to political, sociocultural, architectural, geographical spaces

The adaptation and assimilation to these daunting realities without losing yourself,

Is Not Truly Ordinary!!!

It is Sink or Swim.

This diary is a monumental visual language commemorating my memories, mixed feelings and traumatic experiences. It is my appreciation, made material, of possessing multiple personalities while living in dual worlds. This visual diary is an embodiment of connections drawn from these experiences as a preservation of my memories.

The repetitive processes of weaving, assemblage, gluing, nailing and collaging which translate symbolically to visual texts to be read and engaged by my audiences, is my means of giving credence to the time, labor and efforts associated with traditional weaving methods. The inclusion of these techniques to the conventional means of weaving Kente, the deconstruction and reconstruction of Kente patterns is my means of giving recognition to and education about Kente cloth; and expanding the definition and function of my work.

Conventionally, fabrics and fibers speak to that which is intimate, personal and often related to the body and its functions – physically, psychologically, mentally and spiritually. I am exploring these communicative potentials of the language of fabrics and fibers to invite my audiences into my life and culture to create awareness and appreciation of the experiences and culture of an immigrant.  

 It takes thousands of years for ceramic to decompose, if it would at all. It cannot be eaten by moth, termites or lose its strength after prolonged usage and exposure to the weather, as fabrics would. Reconstructing Kente in ceramic is to preserve what it stands for as a revered cloth, whiles reechoing the potency of its symbolism.

The processes of making through clay stimulates some spiritual connections to my work. Like a baby, it needs special tender care as it goes through all these processes until the final product, even then you don’t stop caring for it. The several hours of “babysitting” during firing, to say the least, and the joyful feeling of fulfillment means so much to the soul.

It is my intent to set in motion an intellectual discourse through my work to mobilize imagination to conjugate my cultural memory with the realities of the present towards a new consciousness.1 Using Kente as a source of artistic inspiration is to affirm diasporic identity that reflects the common historical experiences and shared cultural codes which provides us as one people with stable, unchanging and continuous frames of reference and meaning. (2)

Resonating with nostalgia, my work invites the viewer (especially one with knowledge of the cloth) to return symbolically to the diasporic homeland. It is an acceptance of my otherness and cultural origin which is vital to the self-understanding of a diasporic people. (3)


1.      1Jean Fisher, Diaspora, Trauma and the Poetics of Remembrance in Exiles, Diasporas and Strangers, edited by Kobena Mercer. The MIT Press: 1st edition, 2008.

2.      2,3,Sieglinde, Lemke. Diaspora Aesthetics:Exploring the African Diaspora in the works of Aaron Douglas, Jacob Lawrence and Jean-Michel Basquiat in Exiles, Diasporas and Strangers, edited by Kobena Mercer. The MIT Press: 1st edition, 2008.

Bio

Japheth Taah Asiedu-Kwarteng (b. April 4, 1987, Ghana) is an MFA candidate at Illinois State University. Japheth is a Multicultural Fellow of NCECA and has featured in several prestigious exhibitions including 2021 NCECA Annual and Multicultural Fellowship Exhibitions, respectively. He was a presenter at 2021 NCECA Conference. His works are largely inspired by traditional Ghanaian and African symbolism.