Ghanaian Artist Kwesi Botchway Revels in the Many Colors of Blackness


Grace Edquist for Vogue


A woman sits on a blue stool, chin resting on clasped hands, elbows on crossed knees, her body pitched slightly forward. The pigment of her eyes matches her lips, her nails, her skirt, and her shoes; all bright orange against her dark skin, painted in deep purple brushstrokes and swathed in a stunning sheer pinkish-red fabric. She gazes out with unfocused eyes, a loose stare that feels melancholic but not wholly detached, like she’s at the party, amused but not quite in the mood.


“The human face is where our emotions are best displayed,” says Kwesi Botchway, the Ghanaian artist behind the painting, called Blue Stool Gaze. That’s where he tells his subjects’ stories. The face, and all the complexities it conveys, is the focus of an upcoming show of Botchway’s work at Gallery 1957 in London. Titled “Becoming as well as Being,”the exhibition, running October 28 through December 13, is co-curated by the British writer Ekow Eshun and will showcase 21 striking portraits that explore themes of identity, culture, and beauty. All of the works were created this year, during his residency at Gallery 1957’s original location in Accra, Ghana, under partial lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic and amid a worldwide civil rights movement. (Take that, Shakespeare.)