Professor Ablade Glover is a seminal figure of the renowned West African generation of modern artists from the twentieth century. His personal history, artistic legacy, and oeuvre are emblematic of the radical cultural and socio-political transformation of the era.
Professor Ablade Glover is a seminal figure of the renowned West African generation of modern artists from the twentieth century. His personal history, artistic legacy, and oeuvre are emblematic of the radical cultural and socio-political transformation of the era. Glover’s journey into the artworld is a fecund repository of art history, politics, and the profound social evolution of the continent. His inclusion in ART X Modern – a new section of ART X Lagos dedicated to celebrating pioneers of African modern art – is not only appropriate, but essential.
At the time of his birth in 1934, Ghana was still under British colonial rule, and Glover’s artistic practice was preceded and possibly influenced by the long-standing traditions of the Ashanti kingdom, whose people fought for Ghana’s independence in 1957. This monumental historical victory would be particularly significant for Glover, as it was through his meeting with the first democratically elected president, the revolutionary Dr Kwame Nkrumah, that he was awarded a scholarship to travel and study abroad at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (1964-65).
It was at Newcastle upon Tyne that he was introduced to the studio practice of painting according to the classical European tradition, and he began to develop his technique of using a palette knife to apply oil pigments to canvas. The fervent textural quality of his artworks vividly depicts the vibrant chaos and energy of Ghanaian street markets and lorry stations, as well as intimate studies of women. Glover frequently visits the Makola Market, the largest and most prominent street market in Accra and the foundation of the city’s informal economy. Considered the economic hub of the city, it is mostly run and managed by women, who eventually established the Transport and Trade for Market Women project, designed to advocate for their livelihoods.
Glover’s ‘Marketscape’, ‘Lorry Station’, and ‘Red Townscape’ series are rich with the bright colours and movement of the sprawling throngs of crowds that buy, sell, and negotiate there. The viewer is immediately transfixed and engrossed by the flurry of commotion and the kaleidoscopic spectrum of the vendors’ stalls. The ‘Yellow People’, ‘Green People’, and ‘Red People’ series refer to the popular colours of Kente cloth, woven from cotton and silk and symbolic of the teachings of the Ashanti, which are ubiquitous in the fashion sense of Ghana’s people. This communal sense of cultural heritage and social engagement is also prevalent in the ‘Prayer’ and ‘Jubilation’ series. Yet, the most interesting motif to appreciate is the ‘Profiles’ series, which places women at the centre of the relationship with the viewer. Glover’s respect and admiration for women is apparent, “Women of Africa have some courage and they show it,” says the artist. “When they walk the street, they are elegant. They are courageous, they are brave. When they are going about, they show it. Men don’t do that, do they?”
“… a representation of their self-empowerment and feminist
action in prevailing against the everyday struggles of life in contemporary urban Africa.”
Professor Glover’s art is not only a homage to women’s strength and resilience, but also a reclamation of power from the colonial exploitation of the nation’s wealth and human labour. Through Glover’s sculpted canvasses, women are canonised in the modern art history of Africa as figures worthy of dignified celebration. His paintings are a recognition of their revolt against the patriarchal, inhumane, and exploitative imperial monopoly of Ghana’s colonial past. The women who are the backbone of Ghana’s informal economy epicentre become heroic figures in Glover’s artworks; a representation of their self-empowerment and feminist action in prevailing against the everyday struggles of life in contemporary urban Africa.
An article by Sakhi Gcina
Featured Image : Professor Ablade Glover, “Red Forest (Bird Sanctuary)”, 2016.
This article was written for The Art Momentum | ART X Lagos 2019 Artpaper. [French version inside]
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