Critics’ Picks

El Anatsui, Black River, 2009, aluminum bottle caps and copper wire, 105 x 140".

El Anatsui, Black River, 2009, aluminum bottle caps and copper wire, 105 x 140".


“Chance Encounters”

Sakshi Gallery
3rd Pasta Lane, Colaba
April 17–May 14, 2009

Ghanaian El Anatsui’s gigantic, iridescent installations are unusual treats in Mumbai. In this exhibition, his Black River, 2009, which offers bright golden aluminum liquor-bottle caps that simulate a quilt, and India, 2009, wherein similar dark golden caps are interwoven with blue, red, and green ones, hang like rich folds of crumpled kente cloths on creamy walls. Anatsui’s works are, admittedly, the most alluring on view in this group show of African art, curated by Lagos-based Bisi Silva. Nonetheless, “Chance Encounters” presents an exhilarating array of paintings, installations, and photographs, including works by Moroccan artist Safaa Erruas, Berry Bickle from Zimbabwe, Gabon-born Myriam Mihindou, and Nigerians J. D. Okhai Ojeikere, Uche Iroha, and Nnenna Okore.

The exhibition is devoid of a linking theme, although notions of craft, colonialism, and urban experience chase one another throughout. Iroha’s photographs, in a series titled “Blood Bath-Fire, Flesh and Blood,” 2005, showcase crimson-spattered abattoirs and reference the violent underbelly of life in Lagos. Erruas’s wire and white rice paper Flora, 2009, is less ham-fisted (pun intended) in its handling of aggression. From a distance, silver filaments on a white background suggest a pretty dance of windblown petals. But up close, one notices that sharp needles, threaded with metal wire, produce this shimmery effect. In his adjacent works, Anatsui carries the textile-texture theme in another direction. His use of liquor-bottle caps speaks to Britain’s colonial “gift” to Nigeria: alcohol. Additionally, Anatsui’s weaving symbolizes the ways in which the fates of Africa and Europe were conjoined through trade. Fortuitously, his works are perfect metaphors for an exhibition that emphasizes cross-cultural exchange. Silva sees “Chance Encounters” as fostering friendships between Africa and India as well as connecting African countries. This is a mission not to be scoffed at––even if the quality of art we meet along the way varies.