March 27, 2018

A quest through Wax - Meet Addoley Dzegede

'Happy Family' by Addoley Dzegede

It’s not every day you learn about interesting, inspiring, brave new Art and meet the artist shortly after that. And then find out you connect on so many levels. So time to introduce Addoley Dzegede to you.

Addoley’s Art has two general themes; Home, what feels like home, and hybrid identities, being two things at the same time, but also being none of these things. In both themes Addoley works with personal and more global inspired stories. Her works are little stories built up from a mixture of anecdotes, memories, facts and interviews. Appearance and prejudice are returning subjects. On one hand her work is an active search on her roots, her history and her view on this, at the same time it's about being confronted by others with questions and thoughts about where she is from, how she got her name and other personal things people feel free to ask. Or as she mentioned in our talk: Taking the history or materials of a place I lived or visited and merge it in with my personal history that I always carry with me because of the way I look.

'Everybody you know is here' Addoley Dzegede

I met Addoley online when she was making her interpretation of the Vlisco classic ‘Happy Family’ for the installation ‘Everybody you know is here’. The installation shares the story about Addoley’s mother. She wanted to find out why she moved to Ghana. Her mother had not really ventured far from Cleveland before. She had been to some other cities and states, but never out of the country. So it was a big step to take as a young woman, to join the Peace Corps and move to Ghana. In the installation an interview with her mother interacts with more symbolic objects, like books she mentions and a Wax Print. Addoley wanted to include the Vlisco classic ‘Happy Family’ because of its meaning, as an object that shares a global heritage, but also because of what the pattern on the cloth tells. (Read more about that in my previous post  ‘The chicken and the egg’).
She wanted to buy a piece, but didn’t because she thought it to be too expensive at that time. She decided to make her own interpretation of ‘Happy Family’. She wanted it to look similar to an actual Wax Print, so silkscreen printing didn’t seem right. She decided to buy materials for Batik instead and started. Looking back it seems like a ridiculous plan, because it took her 3 months to make, but I’m happy she did!
When we met last Summer, I asked her to bring her ‘Happy Family’ and it is so good!
I can’t believe she made it without any experience. And I know what I’m talking about, it is such a hard technique and I love how she used and kept using it in her work. 

Addoley with her 'Happy Family' at Jansen, a Wax Print maker & seller in Helmond (NL)

Addoley work isn’t medium specific. For every project she looks for the medium that fits best. So often it involves learning new skills. She worked before with ceramics, silkscreen printing, video and made artist books. Recently she started using the technique Batik. 
It started first, as mentioned above, as a way of replacing or copying Wax Print, since it has its origin in Javanese Batik. (Read more on this in my previous post ‘Wax Prints are based on Javanese Batiks’) She likes using Wax Prints and Batik, because these materials have the same duality, the same hybrid identity as she has herself and which is expressed through her work.

‘Happy Family’ was my own take on it, it was inspired by it, but it is not an exact copy. Creating my own patterns with their own meaning. What intrigues me in Wax Prints is that they are not necessarily named in the factory. In different regions {in West Africa} people give them different names. So I’m doing my own process of naming and creating designs.

‘obama ọlọba’ by Addoley Dzegede

A wonderful and at the same time uneasy work by Addoley is ‘obama ọlọba’. An Indigo printed cloth, similar in lay-out and style as an Nigerian Adire cloth. It shows a portrait of Barack and Michelle Obama. Their portrait is surrounded by exotic looking symbols like pineapples, leaves and elephants, but also by stars, a statue-of-liberty looking torch and eagles. In capital letters is written: “On the 2nd fl of our house w/ lrg window behind us heard the official announcement obama is the 1st black president looked at each other yelled + immediately ducked suddenly felt people are watching us + we are a target hide!”. Addoley explained to me she made the cloth to explain something that is hard to talk about. “I use Art to say things I normally can’t say, not that I couldn’t say it, but I want to say it without saying it. The Indigo cloth is a short story on how I felt when Obama was elected. It was something I thought about a lot, and it was something me and my sister talked about. Our first reaction was fear. When he won we thought something bad would happen to us. Or to him. So it's that type of thing you don’t really talk about. It was something that constantly follows me, so I end up putting in my work.”
For me this is a really confronting piece. I don’t know the fear she is talking about, but I can understand and feel it through this work. So I’m happy she using this form to express her thoughts, feelings and experiences and in the process educating me.

'The constellation of my genealogy' by Addoley Dzegede

Addoley wanted to become an artist from a young age. She studied Fine Art. But it was 3 years ago she re-started her art career with a better view on what that should be. “I now actively started pursuing options which allow me to make new work. I don’t want to feel it's pointless what I’m doing, it need to have an audience”. The aim is an actual fulltime Art practice. She is now in an artist-in-residence allowing her to work and create, teach and experience what that could be like.
I recognise this quest(ion), this struggle very well. Lately I’m struggling a lot with what to make, not that I don’t have ideas, but more the wanting to have a place, a point, to show it. The struggle or question for me is where does my Art start and were does it end. Am I an artist if I’m writing, if I’m giving a talk, walking through nature. For me personally I don’t feel a difference, because all is me.  But for the outside I feel I need to separate these things, place them in boxes, explain them, even make a choice between them. As always, the path I think I have to choose, turns into a highway and before I know it, I’m doing what I thought I should leave behind me. There isn’t that much choosing to be done as I would like there to be. It is more about creating and getting opportunities. The opportunities that allows me to make, share, and to be. I started to use my blog more and more as a tool to learn from people in my field. It allows me to ask questions I ask myself and learn how things work in different creative fields. 

Addoley is working towards an exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis (USA). 
She is making her own Wax Prints that specifically reference histories of St. Louis. Some are general knowledge, others are more specific. The titles will explain what the reference is. For example, a brick pattern gets the title ’37 21’. ’37 21’ is the number of a building that used to exist across the street from the museum that was torn down a year ago. Also St. Louis has a history in producing bricks, it was a big industry. These two stories come together in this Wax Print.
Another work is a Soft Sculpture Necklace of 45 beads on the floor. The enlarged beads made from textile connected with a cord will look like buoys. They refer to the history of trade beads. These beads are often called African trade beads, but they were made in Europe and used for trading with, and trade for people. They are in the same family as Wax Prints; they are seen as African, but are made in Europe.

Last December I got a package from Addoley. In it a Soft Sculpture Bead made from the Lady Africa Wax Print fabric (see previous post The Lady Africa Wax Print). 
So a little sneak preview of what the beads will look like. I’m really looking forward seeing the final installation!

Addoley’s exhibition ‘Addoley Dzegede: Ballast’ will be held from May 11th (opening night) till August 19th at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis.

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