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Studio Jr.

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Art Work, Two Ways

Godfried Donkor

by Doris Zhao, Curatorial Intern Born in Kumasi, Ghana, in 1964, Godfried Donkor currently lives in London, where he primarily works in collage and printmaking. Since the 1980s, Donkor has created works that address the commodification of people of African descent in Europe and America. His mixed-media collages fuse symbols and images of the eighteenth-century slave trade with contemporary media, such as content sourced from magazines or newspapers. Donkor is interested in how black bodies are represented and marketed in various industries, from sports to music to modeling, particularly in print, as he views this medium as a common aesthetic space among different communities of people of African descent. Donkor’s Ebony Jo’burg edition, Ebony Lagos edition and Ebony Accra edition (all 2014) address the magazine’s impact as an exported source of African-American life. This idea is significant to the artist, who grew up with no direct experience of African-American culture except that which was marketed, sold and circulated in mass media. In these three works, Donkor explores the relationship between Ebony and Drum, a South African magazine first published in the 1950s. Initially, Drum was designed to mirror Ebony’s aesthetic, and later differentiated itself with more politicized coverage of apartheid. Donkor juxtaposes imagery from both publications to examine the role of black Americans and Africans within greater systems of capitalism and globalization. By incorporating elements from both publications into his collages, Donkor visually explores representations of people of African descent in the modern economy. The works are mixed-media collages on paper and are composed as periodical covers. With a sheet of newsprint reporting financial news as the base of each work, Donkor layers content from archival copies of Ebony and Drum. He places images of iconic athletes or models at the center of the collages, which form a poignant critique on how these individuals have been commodified

and are used as sites of advertisement and commercialism. By incorporating a layer of lithographed eighteenthcentury slave ships, Donkor further examines the evolving history of exploitation and capitalism. In Ebony Accra edition, Donkor uses the central image of Muhammad Ali with a band of purple, green and white printed slave ships. The work as a whole alludes to a periodical cover, as the artist added an archival Ebony logo and an image of a Drum cover. Interestingly, Donkor gives Ali a halo, which alludes to the dual nature of commodification, as both exploitation of an individual and ascent to popular sainthood or even martyrdom.

Godfried Donkor Ebony Accra edition, 2014 Courtesy the artist

Profile for The Studio Museum in Harlem

Studio magazine (Winter/Spring 2015)  

Studio is the Studio Museum in Harlem's magazine, published twice a year and distributed free of charge to museum members and visitors. In a...

Studio magazine (Winter/Spring 2015)  

Studio is the Studio Museum in Harlem's magazine, published twice a year and distributed free of charge to museum members and visitors. In a...