five senses from my world: zohra opoku, artist

Five senses from Ghana-based artist Zohra Opoku's world.

Accra-based German and Ghanaian multimedia artist Zohra Opoku works across the mediums of installation, performance and photography, using the methods of screen-printing, cyanotype and van dyke brown printing. With a background in both fashion and photography, Zohra's practice explores fashion textile culture and its political, psychological and socio-cultural role in individualistic and societal identities. Her knowledge of these subjects is fused with the influence of nature found in her surroundings and the conceptualisation of West African traditions, where history and culture can often be read through clothing and fabric alone. 

1

My earliest memory of art is from when I was just 2-years-old and my mum took me to a friend's get together that took place in the garden of a studio. 

I can still remember how we entered it and how my spirit opened to the strange but warm environment. I still remember the exciting feeling inside me walking through huge canvases gripping the scent of paint and clay sculptures. My mum was shocked when I asked her about this place in my adult life and that I could visualize so many details of her friend’s studio and remember it throughout my adulthood. I started to express myself at the age of 12, when the fashion in East Germany where I grew up was so boring and militant that I started to sew my own outfits. I actually created my first winter jacket out of scraps of jeans with neon yellow pieces. Expressing myself with individual style seemed to me to be the only way to escape from the grey reality of the GDR.

2

For me, living and working in Ghana means to appreciate the natural resources, work with what I have and improvise. 

There is never only one way to express within my medium. I am able to compromise, because it is a part of my art practice and can lead to something unexpected. I am more centred and focused in Ghana. Especially with the natural energy - it helps me connect and dive into my working practice. 

3

A mixture of a musk fragrance and cold cigarette smoke are my favourite scents.

It reminds me of the time in junior high school when my aunt and her boyfriend came for a long weekend visit from West Germany. She used a musk perfume which mixed in with the smell of cigarettes coming from the kitchen, which was the room her boyfriend was allowed to smoke in. I found this combination twice more later on in my life and it is definitely connected to the little happy moments of my childhood. They brought good vibes, nice conversations, thoughtful gifts like interesting records, played guitar, piano, and also sang. The house was full of life. 

4

I am very happy to work from a new and amazing studio in Accra, Ghana, which keeps me in a smooth working rhythm.

It allows me the creative freedom to work on different images, wood works, and installation based projects at the same time. The forest behind my house, which belongs to the Botanical Garden of the Legon University, is the perfect set up for my portraits which generally take place in the early mornings in nature. As the day progresses, I retreat into the shade and continue works on found wood objects when the sun is at its peak. 

5

My grandmother gives me piece of mind and transports me to memories of amazing moments in my childhood. 

She is the oldest in our family and she has all the stories to tell. She connects me to my grandfather who we lost 2 years ago and she makes me proud because she is just lovable as a person. I adore her love for simple things and her gratefulness just to have food on the table. She is now already great-grandmother seven times over and I am not sure if I'll get that far hahaha.

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