Ghanaian sculptor gets global plaudits for promoting rights of PWDs

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Yajim Amadu, a Ghanaian based in the United States, continuous to receive international plaudits for using sculpture to change perceptions of the over one billion persons in the world suffering some form of disability.

Amadu, who went to the States in 2017, has used found materials and sculpted blue foam to fashion one small sculpture and three life-size figures of real people — two of whom he met — who are functioning exceptionally despite their physical disabilities.

The graduate of the Columbus College of Art & Design’s work under the theme, “Inspiring Change in Perception About Disability,” was on display at the King Arts Complex, Columbus, Ohio, United States.

NAAMCC’s annual national juried art contest

The National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center (NAAMCC) is a museum located in Wilberforce, Ohio in the United State of America, with a mission to chronicle the rich and varied experiences of African Americans from their African origins to present, through its collections and programmes.

It is one of many museums operated by the Ohio History Connection. The concept and founding of a national museum dedicated to African American history and culture can be traced back to the second decade of the 20th century.

In 2021, artists from across the United States were selected for the NAAMCC’s annual national juried art contest to explore the meaning of “Black Future.”

Jurors had their own ideas for who best represented the theme, however, the public had to decide the People’s Choice Award.

The public were, as part of the award, to peruse the images in the People’s Choice Album, make a pick by “liking” or “loving” the image, share the post of the artworks and support the incredible artists.

At the close of the exhibition, Yajim Amadu emerged winner of the 2021 Art of Soul Juried Art Show after his rather sublime piece of arts were exhibited.

The exhibits were part of the annual juried exhibit, “M(art)in Unites”, sponsored by Blick Arts Supplies and on view on February 22, 2020.

Theme of Amadu’s work

The theme of Amadu’s work was centred on how he was horrified as a child in the northern part of Ghana, by the killing of “spirit children,” – babies born with disabilities – believed to cause misfortune and were subsequently poisoned.

Though such killings were outlawed in 2003, some of these children still face discrimination ain lack the requisite support to realise their full potentials to live independent lives in the service of humanity.

The sculptures are currently on display at the Penthouse Art Studio at Columbus, Ohio.

In the exhibit, a Ghanaian, whose nickname is, “Big Man”, is shown climbing a ladder to repair the roof of his house despite his deformed weak legs.

“He has a wife and three kids and has been able to take care of his family,” Amadu said.

A Kenyan woman, who was born without arms, is seated, using her toes to stir the pot of food at her feet while she breastfeeds a baby.

Inspired by the experience of a Ghanaian boy

In more rural areas of Ghana, hitherto, children who had the misfortune of being born with a disability or deformity, were viewed as omens of impending doom.

They were perceived to be reason for a woman’s death at childbirth, the source of a family’s poverty, or the cause of a village famine.

The child can be blamed if a mother gets sick; or even if the child is part of a twin or a triplet, this can be undesirable and suspicious.

Yajim Amadu says there is a boy from Ghana who inspired his work greatly.

Amadu explains: “He was born with one leg and was going to be killed by his father until his mother intervened. She carried the boy to school on her back until he became too big.

“When an American missionary took the boy’s story to a California foundation, it sent him a bicycle that allowed the boy to continue his education — and eventually ride hundreds of miles to call attention to the plight of the disabled in Ghana.”

Now in his 40s, Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah has worked internationally to raise funds.

“I became inspired by him,” Amadu, also a graduate of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, said.

He assembled his sculpture of the boy on the bike using streetlight cases for the body, metal pieces for the arms and leg, automotive exhaust parts for the head and a stainless-steel bowl for the helmet — all mounted on an old bicycle.

The small sculpture in the exhibit is a motorised wheelchair made from discarded objects, including paint can lids and copper wire.

As the wheels of the chair whirl, a sculpted boy — who represents children in rural Ghana — stands below the out-of-reach vehicle that will improve his life.

Change in Perception

Yajim Amadu says his work was created out of his desire to let the world realise the ability of disabled people to reform “us from our spiritual weaknesses, change our lives as viewers and the world.”

“The images depict how differently abled we are, and this can make a viewer walk away as a wiser more discerning person, looking at what the disabled person could not do.”

The work incorporates a mechanical and an electrical element to create movement that interacts with viewers and create a visual tension.

Like our sages have maintained, the artist is a healer of themselves and of others, and that is how admiringly Yajim Amadu learns to carry beauty and put down pain, while ensuring that there is some glimmer of hope for persons with disabilities.

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