Art + Practice
3401 W. 43rd Pl
October 12 - November 21
Half man, half arachnid, the character of Kwaku Ananse has spawned an entire body of “spider tales” within West African folklore. In some fables, Kwaku Ananse appears as a hapless hustler, using his cleverness and cunning to overcome his physical limitations; in others, he is no less than the god of storytelling, spinning tales as easily as the silken strands of his web. In this context, then, the act of weaving serves more as a means of cultural transmission than a commercial product.
In her roughly five-minute short film Intermittent Delight, 2007, Akosua Adoma Owusu splices footage of West African textile workers with a Westinghouse Electric commercial from the 1960s, showing (white) mod couples shimmying around a refrigerator that has been freshly spruced up with a festive piece of fabric. Accompanied by a rollicking Afrobeat sound track, the bold prints on their miniskirts and button-up shirts swoop woozily into close-ups of the batik designs of Ankara cloth. Through similar editing, the filmmaker collapses the swiveling of happy hips into the movements of the weavers working their looms, leaving any further comment on the mechanisms of cultural appropriation unarticulated.
This exhibition pairs Intermittent Delight with Owusu’s Kwaku Ananse, 2013, a twenty-five-minute HD video that transposes a personal narrative onto one of the most famous of the spider tales. The action centers on Ananse’s daughter, sullen and imperious, as she flees her father’s funeral only to encounter his spirit deep in the jungle. While thematically, the story advocates letting go, the film itself is a lovingly crafted plea to preserve those traditions still yet to be bought and sold.