"We had to walk through his studio where huge canvases were leaning at the wall, they seemed like giants to me,” says German-Ghanaian artist Zohra Opoku, recalling one of her earliest encounters with the world of art through her mother’s artist friend.
“I will never forget how I loved to inhale the scent of the oil paint and was fascinated by the energy in that house. Coming outside into the garden, there were strange but interesting people sitting around the table with some little sculptures which her friend was working on. That was a big moment of joy, which still gives me an emotional feeling of fulfilment.” Entering Opoku’s current studio of practice at Black Rock Senegal in Dakar where she is in for artist residency produces a similar reaction of wonderment and curiosity to explore the colourful corners.
Parallel to a modern townhouse, the large-windowed studio, streaming in ample amount of sunlight, the sound of the sea and chirping birds, is where the artist says most of the magic happens. The scattered bottles with shades of blue paint draped down six metres and the large fabrics hanging from the ceiling, filling the room with breathtaking shades of blue, offers a mesmerising sight alluding to artworks from her new collection, The Myths of Eternal Life (2020), Opoku’s interest in death, the afterlife and a healing journey following her diagnosis of breast cancer last year.
Books found around the studio hint at Opoku’s current obsessions and inspirations; ancient Egypt, female artists, mentors and muses. A dedicated printing space where Opoku experiments with monotype print, screen print and a little bit of painting is reminiscent of the ghosts of her past, capturing explorations with her photography.
While Opoku mostly explores through the lens of her camera, her resulting work is often a blend of screen print, fabrics, sculpture and performance, examining cultural and social themes in Africa, cultivated by her deep connection and appreciation of Ghana. As an artist with deeply-rooted family lineage with both German and Ghanaian communities, questions of identity were the starting point in Opoku’s work. “Through my personal background, I am constantly referencing how identity can be transformed according to the place of our origin or upbringing and that we have to accept ourselves as global citizens,” she expresses.