Everything and Nothing: The Diary of One Who Leaves
by Japheth Asiedu-Kwarteng
Figure 1. Japheth Asiedu-Kwarteng. I Miss You Dada (2021). Ceramic, Kente, American flag, jute rope, epoxy. 28 x 18 x 13.5 in. Image courtesy of the artist; Figure 2. Japheth Asiedu-Kwarteng. Picking the Pieces Together (2020). Ceramic, epoxy. 28 x 18 x 15 in. Image courtesy of Anthony Kascak; Figure 3. Japheth Asiedu-Kwarteng. Ruffled Feathers (2020). Ceramic, mixed media. 84 x 48 x 3 in. Image courtesy of the artist; Figure 4. Japheth Asiedu-Kwarteng. Everything and Nothing: The Diary of One Who Leaves (2020). Ceramic, mixed media. 74 x 30 x 30 in. Image courtesy of the artist; Figure 5. Japheth Asiedu-Kwarteng. As a Result of My Responsibilities (2020). Ceramic, wood. 17 x 134 x 60 in. Image courtesy of the artist.
Inspired by Kente cloth traditionally woven by the Asante men of Ghana and the Ewe men of Ghana and Togo, my mixed-media works explore the potential of textiles to communicate the complexities of the diaspora: separation, fear, rejection, love, nostalgia, racism, and appropriation. These sculptures are my visual vocabulary for discussing the experience of entering and leaving the diaspora during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thoughts of my family, conversations with them, and their pain due to my absence influence the names of my works.
As a Result of My Responsibilities (2020) borrows from the traditional Akan dinner setting in which the patriarch is served at a table in a space separate from the matriarch and children of the family to demonstrate my, as well as my father’s, separation and displacement from our family. Hung on the wall, Picking the Pieces Together (2020) envisions Kente cloth made from clay. It appears to defy gravity to symbolize my recovery from quarantine and self-isolation. I Miss You Dada (2021) speaks to my return to the United States after visiting my family in Ghana; everything once again felt strange like during my first arrival. Through the repetitive processes of molding, weaving, and assembling, I reconstruct fragile Kente in ceramic to preserve its potent revered symbolism, while reflecting on my twenty months as a separated father and husband.
Japheth Asiedu-Kwarteng is an MFA candidate at Illinois State University. Japheth is a member of NCECA and has been featured in several prestigious exhibitions including the 2021 NCECA Annual exhibition. He was a presenter at the 2021 NCECA Conference. Japheth holds the NCECA Multicultural, Baber, and Lela Winegarner fellowships.