Chapter One: Relationship to Art
The earliest memories of me doing something that can be classified as art-making started as a kid between the ages of 4 and 5 in a hamlet called “Dzogbeti Kofe”: a one man’s village named after my father Dzogbeti in the Volta Region of Ghana, West Africa. Anytime my mother or older siblings were done sweeping the compound, I would sit on the floor and draw in the smooth sand. My mother was not happy about that because it was not hygienic. We had chickens and other farm animals that drop their faeces everywhere.
Since we eat with our hands and I usually eat with my father from the same plate, it was not acceptable to muddy my fingers in the soil without any tangible reason. However, I believe I may have learned this from my siblings and other kids who come occasionally to our farm since there was not much to play with than the soil and the nature around us.
At the age of 6, I started schooling in the nearby village, and in the first year, we used a small blackboard and white chalk to learn how to read and write. At the least leisure time I got, I would draw on my little blackboard. I sometimes draw whiles the teacher was teaching, and occasionally, I got punished for not paying attention. At age 7 in class 2, we started learning how to write in exercise books with pencils. During this time, I drew in my exercise books, and my teacher reported back to my father about my lack of concentration during classes and would often suggest that my dad enrol me in art school in the future.
My father had no idea about art school since he was never educated hence my father chastised me saying. “he sent me to school to learn how to read, write, understand, and speak the white man’s language; therefore, I should pay attention in class.” My father is very enthusiastic about education, especially to speak a foreign language because of his negative personal experiences of not being able to speak English or French. So, I was given two options; I either focus on school or go along with him to the farm. This caused my interest in drawing to reduce drastically due to the bitter stories of my father and his anger for not going to school. Sometimes I still draw in exercise books and sometimes I got punished for it.
Chapter Two: The Big Break
I have no memories of making art from the 4th grade (10 years old) until 2015 at the age of 34 in Basel, Switzerland. During this time, I was in a depressive life situation, and art was my exodus from pain. I started making art on wooden boards just like I use to do as a kid. My first pieces had almost the same size as I used to as a kid, and gradually the sizes increased. My first attempt on canvas was catastrophic, and I told myself I could never paint on canvas because it was a completely new material for me. But now I love canvas as much as wooden boards. During this big break, I went to school till the tertiary level. I studied International Management at the University of Applied Sciences HTWK-Leipzig, Germany.
Chapter Three: War against Injustice
I am often told the world is the way it is, and there is not much one can do about the injustices that prevail in our society. I grew up in a very isolated environment and many things about Racism, Exploitation, Homophobia, Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism, Xenophobia, Tribalism, Gender Discrimination, Afro-phobia, Modern day Slavery and all forms of discrimination as part of human nature were unknown to me. The kind of lifestyle I experienced in my father’s village was far from ‘civilization’, we are isolated in a jungle on a farmland with no neighbours, nor TV and we had no access to anything that addresses injustices. Hence at the age of 21, I was ignorant about any form of discrimination. At the age of 23, when I moved to Germany, many social challenges seemed strange to me, and it took many years to understand what was going on. Around age 26, I started to lose my innocence, and gradually woke from a beautiful dream. I began to feel pain, and I felt uncomfortable in my own skin and my own environment. I still did not understand much, but a fight against myself and the people around me started. Most images I portray in my artworks are coded messages which address some of the issues surrounding injustices and discriminations.
Chapter Four: Conquering Standards
As a child, I could not draw on the floor because it was not hygienic. In my early years in school, I could not draw because the educational environment did not encourage that. In my teenage years during my secondary education, I had no interest or consciousness for arts because there was no stage in my life where artists were represented in my environment. My perception was people with no access to education or bad basic school certificate studied art. The reality was, students with the best school results pursued courses in the Sciences, Business or Agriculture Science. Most of the artists we meet in our daily lives were individuals who were mostly considered unfit for law, accountancy, engineering, or medicine. Most kids aspired for one of these occupations rather than endeavouring to be an artist.
In 2016 during a Product Management lecture, we were discussing business triggers and how to create products or services which have a future perspective. Art was sorted-out as a profession with no prospects because of the technological development and the ability to create digital and better images with the computer. My decision to create art is going against the odds without prospect because it is a personal memoir in colours.
Chapter Five: Nature of Art
Besides all the above mental setbacks and atmosphere surrounding my world of art, I am very conscious about my work and the decision to do what I do. This is not a career, it is not hand to mouth, not trial and error, it is not a competition, and there is no platform for a debate about value, creation, and style. My works are a representation of my innermost spirit and my subjective understanding of the world around me. The rhetoric in my work is what makes original Agbovi Anthony. I believe I do not have professional, technical, educational or historical expertise like many artists but my work is a personal therapy and exhibition of anger and freedom at the same time. The world is art, life is art, each individual is an artwork, and this is my art of life. Feel free to get in touch in any possible way because my arms are wide open for everyone.
And it continues......
Ghana December 2019: We still have chickens and goats like 30 years ago in the house and nothing much has change.
Germany 2020: Atelier Exodus with few piece of my work