BEFORE LUNCH: Torsu Andrews Yao, ink on paper. 62x44cm, 2014. Signed and dated right lower corner. Provenance-Private Collection, purchased from the artist in Accra.
Torsu Andrews Yao (born 1982) is an art graduate of the Takoradi Polytechnic in Ghana.
He was a runner up for the prestigious Kuenyehia Prize 2017.
On account of the high cost of imported art materials, Torsu early on in his professional career chose to express himself in ink. He found the ball point pen readily available and easily affordable.
With this simple instrument, Torsu was able to show in his compositions mastery of light and shadow and an extraordinary accompanying textural technique.
In this piece, “Before Lunch”, the darkness at the bottom of the table appears ominous.
And it is from there that the two young friends – wide eyed, with wizened faces and apparently hiding from whoever and whatever- are precariously perched and entwined while wolfing down some meager rations.
The setting? Probably within the confines of an urban or rural multi-family compound house.
Will there be lunch? Or what is for lunch?
That is anybody’s guess.
What does the future hold for our poorly educated and unemployed youth?
Again that is anybody’s guess.
Will they get to eat?
Politics (or if you prefer, the business of running the state) in many parts of Africa is often understood through a metaphor of eating; everyone must eat to survive. This leads to a moral ambivalence with respect to corruption on the continent.
For a significant number of Africans, the question is, “is it corruption, graft or redistribution?”. Other reinforcing parts of the narrative become – “it is our turn to eat” and “belly or stomach politics”.
Many elements in “Before Lunch” appear to make oblique references to all these strands of the narrative; it is a piece with several possible layers of meaning.
Eating in our part of the world is always loaded with meaning.
Finally, it is noteworthy that Torsu’s subtle background patterns in “Before Lunch” will in later works morph into full blown symbols; but that story is for another day.
Price on application.
Nii B. Andrews