Perception of other cultures is easily influenced and often understood through interaction with media. Most of what is implied about the world depends on how much is seen, absorbed, and analyzed through different media platform, and as consumers, it is important to question these portrayals. The validity behind questioning these depictions is strengthened by the idea that today’s media platform subtly merge fictional and real behavior. Because of this blended perception, it is easy to develop a false or jaded view of the world beyond one’s personal periphery. One place that has developed a uniquely negative perception in the media is Africa—the continent is constantly perceived to be in endless crisis due to war, poverty, and illness. Though there is truth in this representation, it is not the sole identifier that makes up this diverse landscape. Africa’s cultural richness is rarely explored through a positive lens in the media, yet one artist has made it his mission to change this representation. Solomon Adufah is a West African artist, born and raised in Ghana, who currently resides in Chicago, Illinois. He is interested in using his practice as a way to reveal the hidden beauty woven into Africa’s social and geographical fabric. As a self-taught artist, Adufah made it his mission “to empower, promote and celebrate the African culture through his portrait paintings.” Since moving to Chicago as a late teen, Adufah has been baffled by the negative perceptions of Africa, tainted by its history and the media, and found it even more troubling that blacks in America shared these limited views.
Solomon Adufah: Homeland Ghana combats these initial judgements and reflects on the diversity lost in the deceptive mainstream representation of Africa, exploring a self-referential perspective of what it means to be a look Ghanaian. His practice involves creating large portraits of subjects he meets during his mission trips to Africa. There are two aspects of his art that are endearing; first, how he builds genuine relationships with his subjects and second, his purpose for creating and selling his works. While these aspects drive his practice, the urgency behind what makes his work necessary within a contemporary art context is supported by a different characteristic. Though his portraits are aesthetically pleasing and his purpose is backed by the need to do something for the greater good, the question behind what makes Adufah’s work worthy of the contemporary art canon needs to be addressed, and through this exhibition this earnestness will finally be portrayed and understood. A uniquely vital aspect of Adufah’s practice is that it is rooted in travel, emphasizing a necessary demand for cultural exchange. His travel allows dialogues between America and Africa to emerge, reaching beyond the cultural orthodox and reversing the traditions of Western globalization. Adufah, a native Ghanaian, creates and brings the faces of Ghana to America, building an original understanding of what it means to look and be African. This constant physical engagement is mirrored in his portrait paintings and will be the highlight to this carefully constructed show, examining the endless discourse he has commenced through his various identity markers as an artist, philanthropist, and African.