“I’ve always been inspired by women and the challenges they encounter compared to their male counterparts. I’m drawn to bold muses that inspire other women, encourage women to pursue their goals, and believe in themselves.” Rufai pays tribute to the women in his community in Accra, and here with an American legend.
In September 2022, by our invitation, Rufai made his first visit to the United States. During his trip, he spent time in Ohio, learning about our culture while meeting curators, collectors, students and community members in Columbus, Akron and Cleveland. During his visit, Rufai was pleased to learn that the iconoclast Toni Morrison grew up in Lorain, Ohio! He became enamored with the bit of geographical trivia that Morrison, the firebrand, the literary savant, the barrier breaker, the Nobel Prize winner, was raised in an unassuming Midwest town like Lorain. “It drew parallels to women I’m inspired from back home, who may not hail from the city, but their voices are bold nonetheless”, Rufai recalled. The piece Toni in Blue Suit, 2023, is the artist’s tribute to The Bluest Eye author. Consistent with most of Rufai’s portraits, Toni in Blue Suit is a loose interpretation of his subject’s likeness. She’s styled in bold colors, sports coat, red tie, and patterned-flower pedal trousers. Toni Morrison’s prose has been described as being ‘well seasoned’, and ‘flavorful’, and while not a conscious choice by the artist, but still apropos; Rufai’s version of Morrison is complimented by a yellow-orange backdrop, all collaged from recycled bouillon cube wrappers.
The collection of portraits featured are meant to dazzle the eye. Each portrait is created from customized tiles of single use plastic waste, originally sourced from local Ghanaian communities. The layered tiles are shaped and fashioned to his desired specification, then stitched together with a sturdy gauge of thread throughout the canvas. While their primary purpose of the stitching is functionality, it also doubles as line work, enhancing its aesthetic appeal.
Rufai Zakari, born 1990, is based between Accra and Bawku, Ghana. He completed his apprenticeship under Mozzay, a senior artist in Nima, Accra. In 2011, Rufai Zakari graduated from the Ghanatta College of Art and Design. In his work, Zakari examines consumerism, environmental pollution, labor, trade, and the perils of industrialization in contemporary Ghanaian society. The founder of Rujab Eco-Art Foundation in his hometown of Bawku, Zakari bases his practice on the recycling of waste in the streets of Ghana. After decades of tribal conflict which took countless lives and left the city in ruins, Zakari is now looking to the future with optimism and a strong ambition to rebuild what has been lost, while inspiring hope in his community.
Solo exhibitions include Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, Berlin (2022); Gallery T293, Rome (2022); A New Dawn, Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, London (2021).
Group exhibitions include ‘Untitled Miami Beach’, with Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, Miami , USA (2022); The Armory Show, The Breeder Gallery, New York (2022); Home is where the Art is, Kunsthal Rotterdam, NL (2022); Global Positioning, Public Art Fund, New York, Boston and Chicago, US (2022); Intersecting Identities, Arushi, US (2022); Global Positioning, Public Art Fund, New York, Boston and Chicago (2022); Entre-acte, Selebe Yoon, Dakar, Senegal (2021); More is More: Visual Richness in Contemporary Art, Akron Art Museum, US (2021); 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, London (2021); Devil’s in the Detail, Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, London (2020); This Exhibition is Untitled, Nubuke Foundation, Accra (2020); “CirculArt” Sustainable Art Exhibition by Eco Reward, Casa Trasacco Accra (2019); World Behind the Horizon Exhibition, Gess Gallery, Dusseldorf (2019); Sustainable Art Workshop, Merck Foundation, Dubai (2019); Sustainable Art Workshop, British High Commission, Accra (2018); Violence Against Women Exhibition. Alliance Francaise Accra (2018); “Yoomo Be Ga” Recycle Art Exhibition, Museum of Science and Technology, Accra (2017); Ghana Netherland Cultural Week Exhibition, Accra (2016); “African Champions” Mural in collaboration with (You Are For Africa), Lagos (2015).
Rufai Zakari’s work can be found in important private and public collections including Pizzuti Collection at Columbus Museum Of Art (US); Arthur Lewis Collection (US); Easton Capital/John Friedman Collection (US); Nubuke Foundation, (Ghana); The Bunker Artspace Museum (US); The Ditau Collection (South Africa); Susan Goodman Collection; VG Collection; Akron Museum Collection (US); JOM Collection (Senegal); AMMA foundation (Mexico); The Africa Centre Collection, London, (UK).