I am a black artist, and I feel like representing and elevating black people through my works.
Kwesi Botchway doesn't just want to portray identifiable black women, he wants to emphasize their importance, their role and their beauty. He wants to show their essence, their soul. So he makes them proudly look at the visitor; therefore he often gives them a mysterious gaze; therefore he makes them seductive by painting their eyes and their lower lip orange; that's why he pays a lot of attention to their earrings; that is why he uses colors in such a way as to become references to the richness of African culture. In short, his portraits are a tribute to the black woman. In doing so, he not only sends a message to the white viewer, Black Women Matter, but also to the black viewer who suffers from, as he himself puts it, a lack of self-appreciation, self-acceptance and self-confidence.
Botchway’s paintings, charged with emotions, highlights the idea of beauty in relation to the black experience. Color plays an important role in the work of Botchway, expressing one’s character, community, culture and even language. The color of the black skin includes purple hues, evoking the ancient color which has been linked to royalty wealth, grandeur, and also mystery, magic, seduction and wisdom. These emotionally charged portraits are presented on bright colored backgrounds that emphasizes the people in question. The spectator is being challenged directly by the subject of the paintings, creating an intriguing dialogue between the subject and the viewer. Through Botchway’s choice of representation, the viewer becomes emotionally invested in the subject’s story. While some of his personas are inspired by people, other characters, including the dyptic Lesbian Show, were born from his imagination. Though the initial photograph is now unrecognisable, the composotion is based on an advert Botchway spotted in a fahion magazine. At a glance, the painting depicts two black women in an everyday situation. However, Lesbian Show is inspired by socio-political events around the world and a strong desire to elevate the Black community.
Welcome to the party. We sent your invite long ago.
It must have traveled a great distance.
Forging through forests. Climbing great hills.
Swimming deep waters.
But that couldn’t be.
It was addressed directly to you.
Did you misplace it under stacks of mail?
Or put it in the recycling bin?
Used as a marker in a book that you put back on the shelf before finishing?
That must be.
Why else would you wait to join us?
Gather your things and come quickly as you could?
Cancel other plans, postpone any engagements.
What would hinder your attendance?
Something must have kept you...
Did you lose your home in fire?
A flash flood thwarted your path?
Your clocks all stopped and you lost track of the time?
That must be.
Regardless, welcome to the party.
There is only goodness here. We will embrace you warmly.
And smell of lilies and cocoa butter.
We are happy that you’ve made it.
Come! Dance with us now.
A party for Black women.
Dance, before we shut the doors again on those who cannot see,
what we’ve shown you all along.
"Welcome to the Party" by Shaquille Heath
This poem was written specially for the exhibion "Rumors of Blackness"