'Liverpool Counterpoint 8'



One of Kwami’s aims, with his 'Prints in Counterpoint' series, was to enable viewers to see and appreciate objects in the museum’s African collection in intriguing new ways and in ways that make the objects “resonate”, he says, “with hidden energies embodied in their original making and usage”. He was most aware of these “resonances” when sketching two Ghanaian stools in the World Cultures Gallery at World Museum (1977.297.2 and 42.11/DP Temp 4161), which appear in 'Counterpoint 8.' The stools brought back memories of an early morning gathering that Kwami had attended in Avatime State in eastern Ghana’s Volta Region in July 1996. On that morning at dawn the paramount chief (Okusie) Takyi IX of Biakpa gathered his clansmen and kinsmen together and related the narratives of 19th century wars and the origins of various local chieftaincies. A stool was brought before the gathering to serve as a kind of public reminder of the historical narrative and for the precedents of each chieftaincy. While sketching the World Museum stools Kwami recalled some of the historical narratives he had heard recited that morning in July 1996. So when making his 'Counterpoint 8' print Kwami included a line portrait of Togbe Takyi IX remembered from that morning gathering in Biakpa town. In this head and shoulders portrait Takyi IX is shown in his Kwame Nkrumah-style kente cloth of 1948. Kwami positioned this portrait above his sketches of the museum’s stools on the brown lino block that he overprinted on the right hand side of Liverpool Counterpoint 8. The effect seems to echo the form of some staff tops carved on Ghanaian staffs of office. On the left hand side of the print Kwami overprinted a block in pale yellow ink in which he had cut another series of drawings of Ghanaian stools that he had sketched earlier in Ghana. The stools depicted on this yellow block are hard to distinguish and seem to evoke the missing individual narratives, memories and identities that the stools would have had in their original Ghanaian context before they were acquired by a museum.