Atta Kwami

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beauty, everyday life, metropolises, nature, subculture
Visual Arts (curating art, drawing, etching, installation art, mural painting, painting, printmaking, sculpture, water-colour, woodcut)
Europe, Western, Africa, Western
England (UK), Wales (UK), Ghana
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June 4, 2003
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Street Abstractions

Leading Ghanaian artist and academic Atta Kwami was born in Accra in 1956 and lives in the country’s second city, Kumasi. He is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Painting & Sculpture at KNUST College of Art. His vibrant abstract paintings and installations draw on the visual culture of Ghana, in particular the street painters of his home city. He has exhibited widely around the world and been invited by universities and other arts institutions as a Visiting Lecturer.
Atta Kwami is a leading Ghanaian artist and academic. He was born in Accra, Ghana in 1956 and lives in the country’s second city, Kumasi. He studied for his degree in Painting at the College of Art, Kumasi and went on to teach at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in 1986 as Lecturer. Since 1993 he has been Senior Lecturer in the Department of Painting & Sculpture at KNUST College of Art.

Kwami works in a number of visual arts disciplines, primarily painting and print-making, although he is also known for installation pieces, sculpture and as an exhibition curator. At the Kuona Trust 2nd International Artists Workshop at Lake Naivasha, Kenya in 1999, Kwami created a series of small colourfield paintings, untitled abstract works of captivating beauty. Some of the work was later exhibited at the Beardsmore Gallery, London in 2001. Kwami wrote for the show:

´To me small scale is not a limitation; it does not reduce the amount of energy that I can put onto a pictorial surface – rather, although I often work on large surfaces, I feel equally intimate with the small paintings. I find self-forgetfulness can be reached on a small scale just as effectively as on a larger one. It’s possible to enter into any space within the scope of seeing and manipulation. Small images, when assembled together, can create surprising visual impact.

More than anything else, I feel my working aesthetic has been shaped by the rich visual culture of Kumasi, Ghana’s second largest city where I have lived since 1986. The multitudes of sign painters, whose creative activities have transformed the visual character of the city, have engaged my attention. The diversity of painting in Kumasi also suggests a pluralist that does not make difference an issue.´

For the public art phase of the Kuona Trust residency, Atta Kwami installed his ‘African Archway’, a large colourful work made of wooden boards to create two arches, painted in bright geometrical shapes. For the Johannesburg Biennale in 1997, Kwami made ‘Kiosk’, a mixed media piece representing a typical street-painting kiosk painted in vivid green and yellow, also inviting public engagement with a temporary constructed space. Kwami’s enthusiasm for the Kumasi street painters’ culture was seen in the exhibition ‘Kumasi Junction’ which toured in the UK in 2002/03 to Oriel Mostyn Gallery in North Wales and The Lowry in Manchester. He exhibited alongside eleven art and sign street painters of Kumasi, giving a glimpse of the vibrant visual culture of the city.

Atta Kwami has been invited to lecture at universities and other arts institutions in the UK and Africa. He was Fellow in Printmaking at Chelsea College of Art & Design, The London Institute in 1992/93. Visiting Lectureships include Loughborough College of Art & Design (2001); University of South Africa, Pretoria (1997); School of Art & Design, Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (1997); Middlesex University School of Art and Design, UK (1995); Camberwell College of Arts, London (1994); Royal College of Art, London (1992/93); Falmouth School of Art & Design, UK (1993). He has taught summer schools and creative writing through a consortium of North and South Carolina Universities at the College of Art, KNUST in Kumasi since 1997. He has taken part in workshops in Ghana, UK, Nigeria, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire and South Africa.

Atta Kwami has a consistent track record of exhibitions around the world. He has been part of group shows of Ghanaian Contemporary Art in the USA, Switzerland, Copenhagen, Stockholm and participated in two Johannesburg Biennales. Solo exhibitions have been held regularly at the Beardsmore Gallery in London. He has also had notable individual exhibitions at the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC (1995), the National Museum of Ghana, Accra (1999) and Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland (2001). His work is held in several major public collections (including Victoria and Albert Museum, London, National Museums of Ghana and Kenya, National Museum of African Art, Washington DC) and many private collections around the world.

SOURCE: quotation from Beardsmore Gallery, London brochure, 2001
Author: Judith Staines


Ghanaian artist and academic Atta Kwami was born in Accra in 1956. He lives and works in Ghana’s second city, Kumasi, where he is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Painting & Sculpture at the College of Art, KNUST. He studied painting at the College of Art in Kumasi from 1976 to 1980, gaining a BA and has taught at the college since 1986. He has made many international teaching visits as Visiting Lecturer to universities in England, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria. He gained an M.Phil in African Art in 1992 and was Fellow in Printmaking at Chelsea College of Art & Design, The London Institute in 1992/93.



Exhibition / Installation,
2003/02 ´Kumasi Junction´, The Lowry, Manchester, UK; Oriel Mostyn Gallery, Wales, UK. 2002 ´Ten´, Beardsmore Gallery Artists Anniversary Show, London 2000 ´A Slice of Contemporary African Art by Ghanaian Artists´, Fredriksberg City Hall, Copenhagen; Galleri B, Stockholm, Sweden. 1999/2000 ´South meets West´, National Museum of Ghana, Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland. 1998 ´An Exhibit of Contemporary African Art´, Washington DC 1997 ´Trade Routes: History and Geography, Alternating Currents´, 2nd Johannesberg Biennale, South Africa. 1996 ´Direction 1´, College of Art Gallery, Kumasi, Ghana 1995 ´Volatile Alliances - An International Conspiracy´, 1st Johannesberg Biennale, South Africa.


Exhibition / Installation,
2002/03 Nicolas Krupp Contemporary Art Gallery, Basel, Switzerland 2001 Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland 2001 Beardsmore Gallery, London 2000 L´Alliance Francaise de Kumasi, Ghana 1999 Lake Naivasha Studios, Naivasha, Kenya 1998/99 National Museum of Ghana, Accra 1996 School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 1995 Newtown Galleries, Johannesberg 1995 Beardsmore Gallery, London 1994/95 Point of View Gallery, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC, USA 1993 Castle Museum Nottingham, UK 1980 British Council, Accra, Ghana


2001 Gasworks Studios residency, London
1999 Kuona Trust International Artists Workshop, Kenya
1992/93 Fellow, Chelsea School of Art, The London Institute


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the partner institutions.

Kumasi Street Painters

(07 September 02 - 19 October 02)


Contemporary Africa Database

Brief CV

Johannesburg Biennale 1997

Image of work produced for Biennale.

Kuona Trust

Projects by four selected artists for 2nd Kuona Trust residency, 1999, including Atta Kwami.

Gasworks Studios

Open studios for Atta Kwami residency at Gasworks Studios, 2001.