By Damali and Nii B. Andrews

We have had occasion (in an earlier blog post) to draw attention to Picasso’s epiphany following his encounter with African sculpture.

The influence of of the African sculptural idiom on modern art has also been acknowledged by numerous authorities.

In our own era, El Anatsui has further revolutionized sculpture by freeing it from fixed forms.


All these instances add up to a colossal African sculptural tradition that understandably serves to both intimidate and inspire contemporary sculptors from Africa and its Diaspora.

The Ghanaian artist, Frederick Oko-Matey, has for many years been producing giant, elegant, beautifully coiffed and bejeweled women in lithe elongated forms.


He presents them as bold and confident; totally poised and self-assured.

His treatment of volumes in the sculptures is admirable; notice how the thick braided/?locked ponytail frames the neck on the side view and then parts in two over the left shoulder.

There is an accompanying painstaking attention to detail as can be seen in the ornamentation, folds of clothing and textured surfaces.


The sculptures appear to reference the African supermodels who have torn up the world’s haute couture runways over the last three to four decades.

They include Billie Blair, Pat Cleveland, Mounia Orosemane, Liya Kebede, Kaone Kairo, Ajuma Nasenyana, Iman, Faye Tall and Khadija Adam.

VOLTA QUEEN: Frederick Oko-Matey, ebony wood, 160 x 18 cm, 2018. Signed at base.

We certainly do not subscribe to them as being “exotic” even though that designation may satisfy the approved western branding for reasons best known to those promotional institutions.

We simply see them just as Oko-Matey does in executing his sculptures – majestic, graceful and dignified African women……statuesque.

Billie Blair.

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