“How Do You Spell A Silent Sound?”

Art Exhibition by Joana Choumali.

August, 2019. Gallery 1957, Kempinski Hotel, Accra, Ghana.

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The thought-provoking title of this exhibition “How do you Spell a Silent Sound?”, indeed leaves the mind wondering. What is a silent sound? Can you actually attempt a spelling? Why do you want to spell a silent sound? What’s the point of all this?

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On what turned out to be  quite an eventful night in the Kempinski Hotel, I went into this exhibition on the same night of the opening of Godfried Donkor’s  “Battle Royale: Last Man Standing”. Both gallery spaces in the hotel were bustling with art lovers and myriads of people from Accra’s burgeoning Art scene. Amidst all this, there was a certain calmness present while approaching  the space where Joana’s works were displayed.

A photographer and mixed media artist, each work combined both disciplines and  effortlessly draws you into a whole different world.  She expertly portrays a surreal mix of everyday life and a superimposition of dream-like stitches. The resulting images are verily captivating and the viewer can’t help but stare – it’s like a spell has been cast.

Within this spell, she beautifully expresses her emotions about events, speaks the unspoken and connects with the viewer at a deep and visceral level; “overlaying gauzy panels of embroidered chiffon and tulle on collaged cell-phone photographs of figures and cityscapes like dreams overlapping reality, unclear where one begins and the other ends”.

Joana Choumali – recent first African Winner of the 2019 Prix Pictet Photography Prize –  focuses her work on Africa and what she learns about the cultures around her. She was presented with this prestigious Prize for her series “Ca va aller”,  which together with her other series “Alba’hian” and “Translation” formed the entirety of this exhibition.

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I was deeply moved by all the works and had several other questions stuck with me as I wrangled with that already posed by the exhibition title. I still do not know how to spell a silent sound nonetheless I left the exhibition with one lesson – keep on asking questions.

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