Episode #165: Filmed in 2011 at The Museum of Modern Art in Hayama, Japan, El Anatsui discusses the role of language and symbols in his artwork. When naming works such as "Gli" (2010), Anatsui often uses his native language of Ewe because Ewe words can have a range of meanings when pronounced differently. Anatsui also describes the formative experience of discovering adinkra symbols, a West African system of abstract symbols that represent specific concepts or aphorisms.
Working with wood, clay, metal, and the discarded metal caps of liquor bottles, El Anatsui breaks with sculpture’s traditional adherence to forms of fixed shape while visually referencing the history of abstraction in African and European art. Anatsui’s works trace a broader story of colonial and postcolonial economic and cultural exchange, told in the history of cast-off materials, while exploring ideas about the everyday function of objects and the role of language in deciphering visual symbols.
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CREDITS: Producer: Ian Forster. Consulting Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Susan Sollins. Camera: Takahisa Araki & Joel Shapiro. Sound: Steve Bores. Editor: Morgan Riles. Artwork Courtesy: El Anatsui & Museum for African Art. Special Thanks: Lisa Binder, The Museum of Modern Art, Hayama, Japan, Jack Shainman Gallery & Wellesley College. Theme Music: Peter Foley.