Paa Joe, Fort St. Anthony – Axim, 1515 Portugal, 1642 Netherlands, 1872 Britain, 2004–2005 and 2017, wood and enamel.
Accra-based artist and craftsman Paa Joe (b. 1947), known for his figurative coffins that draw from the traditional Ghanaian custom of abebuu adekai, gained international recognition in seminal presentations like Magicians of the Earth (Pompidou, 1989). This exhibition presents a unique series of large-scale painted wood sculptures commissioned in 2004 and 2005—architectural models of Gold Coast castles and forts that served as way stations for more than six million Africans sold into slavery and sent to the Americas and the Caribbean between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Once forced through these “Gates of No Return,” they started an irreversible, perilous journey during which many died. This production alludes to Paa Joe’s coffins, seen as vessels ferrying the dead in the afterlife, speaking to spirits separated from bodies in trauma. Archival documents and recordings accompany the show.
(Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New YorkPhoto (C) Paa Joe, courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York)