In his innovative practice, the Clifford Bright-Abu seeks to delve into the historical archives of West African and North African kingdoms, particularly the Adansi’s pre- colonial architectural marvels. The Adansi people, from whom Bright-Abu hails, were among the pioneering Akan states to establish a kingdom during the 15th century, forming the central focus of Bright- Abu’s imaginative reinterpretations. Known for their exceptional building prowess that played a crucial role in shaping the architectural landscape of the Ashanti Kingdom, they were revered as the royal builders, crafting extraordinary structures that exuded a unique blend of aesthetics and function. This exhibition, titled “Adansini,” which translates to “Builders,” invites us to witness the reimagining of these architectural wonders within the contemporary context of Kumasi, Ghana.
Traditional Asante buildings were characterized by the “wattle and daub” construction method, utilizing large vertical timber logs connected by horizontal links. Both sides were plastered with mud or clay, creating a 25cm thick layer. Notably, these structures featured high-pitched roofs with angles exceeding 60 degrees, ensuring the longevity of thatched roofing. Over time, these traditional techniques have largely given way to foreign influences, such as Western styles and materials like cement, aluminum roofing, and European design elements, as indigenous architectural practices have faded. Only a small number of these structures remain, and they languish in a state of neglect, diminishing their historical significance and worth. Another notable characteristic of Ashanti buildings was their intricate ornamentation, marked by geometric designs and the incorporation of Adinkra symbols in the upper sections of walls and columns. In contrast, the lower portions of the structures were adorned with high-relief designs, often depicting animal totems representing the respective clan. Earthy hues, such as light ochres for the upper portions and darker ochres for the lower sections, were commonly used to enhance the visual appeal of these architectural masterpieces.
Bight-Abu’s background in Building Technology equips him with the skills and knowledge to navigate the intricate world of architecture. With the aid of digital tools like Adobe Photoshop, Blender, and Illustrator, he births new life out of ancient and historic buildings, whether residential, royal palaces, sacred shrines, or humble barns. His digital models transcend the boundaries of time, offering futuristic iterations of these structures while preserving their cultural, spiritual, and collective essence. This blend of technology and tradition is the cornerstone of his work, illustrating the dynamic nature of the Adansi architectural legacy.
While the historical context of the Adansi people’s architecture is essential, Bright- Abu takes it a step further by infusing his work with Afrofuturist elements which denotes a forward-looking, imaginative approach to African culture. Abu’s work pays homage to these builders and the legacy they left behind. His creations celebrate the intricate carvings, polished surfaces, and architectural uniqueness described by historical accounts, such as William Winniet’s observations in 1884. By reimagining Adansi architecture through an Afrofuturist lens, he transports these ancient buildings into the realm of the future. He envisions structures that do not only pay homage to the past but also speculate on what they might become in a world where culture, technology, and spirituality coalesce in innovative ways. His reinterpretations of these forsaken historical architectural wonders often find themselves in unconventional environments that deviate from the usual geographical context of Kumasi, which is both landlocked and tropical. In doing so, he challenges the notion of being bound by geographical constraints, expanding the possibilities of where these reimagined structures might now thrive, be it within pink deserts, alongside turquoise rivers, and beyond.
Curatorial text by Nuna Adisenu-Doe
osu close, plot no. 7