Woven: An Interview from Abroad with Addoley Dzegede
interview by laura schilli
You may have seen Addoley Dzegede's work in the 2018 Great Rivers Biennial,
but since then, the interdisciplinary artist has continued to work internationally. In fact, she's been practicing around the world for the past six years. This summer, Dzegede has an upcoming residency at Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, and last winter she traveled to Ghana, Africa. There, she studied alongside fashion brand Osei-Duro, where she furthered her skillset applying dyes to textiles and designing wood objects to be carved by a craftsperson. She spent five weeks augmenting her practice, learning of new unique techniques, and building relationships with local artists and craftspeople.
Before her travels in Ghana came to an end, we were lucky enough to catch up with Addoley as she reflected on how her practice was evolving.
What were your initial goals for this residency and how has that changed since you've arrived?
My initial goals for the residency with Osei Duro were to work with Ghanaian weavers, dyers, woodcarvers and brass casters to make new work that I couldn't make on my own. In the span of five weeks, I was able to accomplish all my goals except for working with weavers. Within the first few days, I realized that the idea I had for weaving was not quite feasible, and that it would be hard to find anyone willing to take on the project. Another goal was to work with Osei Duro's production scraps. I did some experiments while there, but then I think most of the work has yet to be done. I brought scraps back with me to continue working with them.
How would you describe Ghana (the people, places, and things you've experienced)?
Every time I've been to New York City, it feels like a new city in some way. How I would describe it changes depending on the reason I am there, who I am with, and what I am doing. Ghana is the same. I spent most of the time in Accra, the capital. Like any big city, it's very international with people from all over the world living and working there. There are many Ghanaian ethnic groups living side by side, and in a given day, it's not uncommon to hear half a dozen languages spoken.
Ghana has changed a lot in the past few decades, and it's shocking every time I return to Accra to see just how much. I do love that certain things haven't changed. There is a nice merging of old and new happening. There is a lot of history visible there, but also it's a very present and future-focused city.
Do you feel this residency has affected your practice overall?
This residency has definitely affected my practice. I learned a new way to make batik fabric from Nana Aboagye, one of the batik dyers Osei Duro works with, and I also showed him how I print with dye using seaweed. I also fully understand the fundamentals of the brass casting process and can plan better for future projects involving that technique.
The weeks I spent there this time affected my sense of belonging in Ghana, as I know artists, designers and craftspeople, where before I only knew family and family friends. I can show up again and know who to contact and where to go to find materials.
Another way it's changed my practice is that I feel I have few excuses for not getting work done. I watched craftspeople work with the bare minimum needed to do what they do. The dyer used buckets to dye and wash his fabric, and used a simple set up with a table top to apply the wax to fabric. The woodcarvers worked under a tree with basic tools. The brass caster worked under a tin-roofed shelter on the side of a dusty and busy road.
What's next following this trip?
Following this trip, I just need some time alone to complete all the work and to reflect on what I made and learned. I'll spend the next few months doing that before heading to Paris in the summer for a residency.
Since travelling to Africa, Addoley has spent her time completing unfinished works related to working in Ghana and collaborating with her husband and creative partner, Lyndon Barrois Jr., on future projects. Addoley’s work is currently being exhibited through the Luminary’s current public art platform, Counterpublic, located throughout Cherokee Street until July 13th (counterpublic.us).
To see more of Addoley’s work, visit www.addoley.com.