Zohra Opoku is a an artist of German and Ghanian descent based in Accra, whose work spans installation, performance and lens-based media. Opoku’s examination of textile culture considers fashion’s political, psychological, and socio-cultural role in the formation of personal identities. Having received a Masters in Fashion from Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, her practice is centered around the rich cultures of textiles and design, which have been an inherent part of West African identity throughout Ghana’s layered history.
In Opoku’s socially engaged practice, west African traditions of spirituality and family lineage form a dialogue with the contemporary realities of self-authorship and hybridity. Exhibited internationally, Opoku’s is also known for her interventions and street actions that are imbedded within urban infrastructures. In “THE BILLBOARD PROJECT” (2014-15) the artist assembled a series of large-scale installations formed of secondhand garments woven together in arrangements and strung on empty billboards across central Accra. The work confronted the dual notion of materialistic waste and secondhand clothing, revealing its effects on social status and identity politics.
Through her exploration of African cultural memory, Opoku creates visual observations of consumer culture that question the meaning of national identity. In her exhibition at Gallery 1957 she explored the Ashanti concept of “SASSA”, which can refer both to a ‘universal energy’ or a ‘vengeful spirit’, using a rich combination of installation and photographic work. In this series, Opoku ventured to Southern Ghana to capture the Ahemaa, queen Mothers of Ashanti (women with influential roles in local government), and also took self-portraits. In her evolving practice, the artist continues to explore versions of what constitutes the self through various time-frames and social spaces. In dialogue with her surroundings, Opoku merges a multitude of landscapes in search of a trans-historical self, inventing her own rituals and traditions in the process.
Opoku has exhibited her work in association with Gallery 1957 Accra, Gallery Commune1 Capetown, CCA Lagos, ANO Ghana/DAK ́ART 11th Biennial, Nubuke Foundation Accra, Kunsthaus Hamburg, Gallery Peter Herrmann Berlin, Musée de l ́Ethnographie Bourdeaux, Guggenheim Bilbao, Broad Art Museum Michigan, Kruger Gallery Chicago and 1.54 NY. Her recent residencies include Jan van Eyck Institute Maastricht/NL, Kala Institute Berkeley/CA and Institute Sacatar Salvador da Bahia/BR. Opoku is represented by Mariane Ibrahim Gallery Seattle.