For Kobina Nyarko it is still a mystery how the concept of fishes became the predominant theme in his artistic work. As he recalls in a conversation with Safia Dickersbach on the occasion of one his exhibitions in a hotel in Accra, Ghana, it was during the year 1998 when in a special moment the idea came to his mind to just paint fishes. Since then fishes of different shapes, sizes, colours and movements have determined the contents of his paintings.
Kobina Nyarko was convinced of his new idea when he saw the people’s reaction. He hanged the first painting which was showing fishes in a restaurant and it was sold immediately. People who saw the painting being carried away looked for him all over the country until they found him in Takoradi to ask him to paint another picture with fishes. That’s how he knew that this topic would be the new focal point of his artistic programme. Nowadays Kobina Nyarko organizes and composes groups of numerous colourful fishes in a way that they form compositions reminiscent of abstract expressionism
Kobina Nyarko studied Industrial Art at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi where he graduated in 2003. During this time he noticed that his friends who had introduced him to painting were not painting any more. They told him that they were not making any money with it. It was their first priority to make money with painting. As Kobina Nyarko says, this was the moment when he decided that it was not going to be his first priority to make money with painting. He would just concentrate on his artistic work and wait to make a name for himself. And that is how it later happened.
On a regular workday Kobina Nyarko works between 3 and 6 hours on a painting. It takes one year for him to finish one fish painting. One month alone it already takes to fix all the fishes’ eyes by counting, finding and painting the missing characteristic dots. He would not allow a painting to be publicly presented before he made sure that there is no fish left without an eye; this drive and passion is always in him to find the few fishes who are still blind and whose eyes still need to be painted.
Kobina Nyarko cannot tell you how many fishes there are in his paintings. Sometimes he starts counting them, but the number vanishes when you get somewhere close to a final result.
For Kobina Nyarko art is the power of the mind transformed to something that can be seen on any medium. Art brings to life what we have not imagined before. As he describes it, his head is full of the joy of creation and full of things that he has not brought to life yet. He feels joy when he paints and turns the ideas into reality which populate his mind.
When asked about whether he considers himself an African painter, Kobina Nyarko says that in his view the times are over when there were reasons for people to attribute artists to the regions where they come from. His artistic concept is not limited or related to any specific region on earth. Fishes are everywhere. And while he is an artist from Africa, being based and working in Africa does not mean that his paintings need to be full of things that you can only see on the African continent. Instead his paintings of fishes address issues which are of global relevance, as for example environmental pollution and human intervention in nature. The ocean connects the people worldwide. What happens anywhere in the word affects the shores of the African continent and what happens here in Africa can happen at any coast all over the globe.
Read about the project on “This Is Africa”: http://bit.ly/16ejiHb
Editing: David Picard
Camera: Enes Hakan Tokyay
Photos of the paintings: Ben Bond
Music (for the questions): Ayo Nelson-Homiah — “Express”
Music (for the credits): Sarkodie (feat. Kesse) — Azonto Fiesta
A film by Safia Dickersbach
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