Emmanuel Taku - New Now London Tuesday, July 13, 2021 | Phillips

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  • 'Though our bodies are usually politicised, I seek to further practice reclaiming our narrative like many great artists before me by capturing black bodies in a potent reverence.'
    —Emmanuel Taku

    Two figures dominate the composition of The Amethyst Pair. Their bodies learn into one another as their gaze turns outwards, presenting an image of intimate solidarity. The dynamic work was created by Ghanaian artist Emmanuel Taku in 2020 during his participation in a 4-week residency at Noldor, a programme established by Joseph Awuah-Darko in Accra, Ghana, to nurture emerging African artists. Taku asserts the significance of the interconnected poses of the bodies, noting that the work was conceived as a celebration of ‘the age-old saying of ‘Ubuntu’ meaning ‘I am because we are.’i Embracing the aesthetic and symbolic potential of different mediums, torn pieces of newspaper embellish the faces of the figures evoking the politicisation of the representation of Black bodies in the media. The artist’s trademark incorporation of paisley also makes a political point. The textile, originally from East India, was introduced to England during the colonial era and in its diasporic journey across the world stands, for Taku, as a symbol of the ‘melting pot of cultural identity.’ii The pattern is screen-printed onto the canvas to clothe the figures in matching amethyst ensembles, evidencing an experimentation with technique that characterised the artist’s residency at Noldor. 

    The Amethyst Pair was exhibited in Accra alongside a body of figurative work made by Taku during the residency. The exhibition was titled Temple of Blackness – It Takes Two, responding to British-Ghanaian artist John Akomfrah’s characterisation of traditional Western art museums as ‘Temples of Whiteness.’iii Taku explains, ‘[t]his notion stuck with me and drove me to aspire for my own ‘Temple of Blackness’’.iv The figures that occupy this metaphorical temple are depicted in strong poses with blank eyes that recall classical sculptural traditions. However, Taku reconfigures this imagery, painting, collaging, and screen-printing figures, such as those in The Amethyst Pair, so that they take on a supernatural quality as ‘demi-gods, or heroes.’v Taku describes this mode of representation as one of ‘figurative surrealism’, intended to reclaim the ‘objectified representation’ of Black bodies in art.vi Taku’s approach to figuration situates his work alongside that of other artists powerfully forging new modes of Black portraiture, including British artists Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Lubaina Himid, and fellow Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo, with whom Taku trained at the Ghanatta Institute of Art and Design.


    Emmanel Taku and Joseph Awuah-Darko, founder and director of the Noldor artist residency, discuss Taku’s participation in the programme, and the process of creating the body of work exhibited as Temple of Blackness – It Takes Two, 2020. 


    i Emmanuel Taku, quoted in ‘The Amethyst Pair’, Africa First, online
    ii Emmanuel Taku, quoted in ‘Noldor Residency Offers Boost For Artist’s Mind and Body of Work,’ FLYafrica Magazine, Issue 10, online
    iii Emmanuel Taku, quoted in ‘Temple of Blackness – It Takes Two’, Contemporary &, online
    iv Emmanuel Taku, quoted in ‘Temple of Blackness – It Takes Two’, Contemporary &, online
    v Emmanuel Taku, quoted in ‘Temple of Blackness – It Takes Two’, Contemporary &, online
    vi Emmanuel Taku, quoted in ‘Emmanuel Taku’, Maruani Mercier, online

    • Provenance

      The Noldor Residency, Accra
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Accra, The Noldor Residency, Temple of Blackness- It Takes Two, 4 December 2020 - 21 January 2021

    • Literature

      Melanie Gerlis, 'Ghana gets first artist residency,' Financial Times, 3 December 2020, online (illustrated)
      Romina Román, 'Emmanuel Taku Ghana's Finest and Brightest,' Metal Magazine, December 2020, online (illustrated)
      Danielle Gorodenzik, Joseph Awuah-Darko and Emmanuel Taku Interviewed by Africa First, Africa First Collection, February 2021, online (illustrated)
      Meghan Grech, 'Black Identity and Power Emmanuel Taku’s Mixed Media Portraiture', Casper Magazine, 2021, online (illustrated)
      Cristina Samper, 'Feel Hypnotised With the Gaze and Clothes in Emmanuel Taku's subjects,' Art of Choice, 28 June 2021, online (illustrated)



The Amethyst Pair

signed and dated 'Taku 2020' on the reverse
acrylic and paper collage on canvas
210 x 140 cm (82 5/8 x 55 1/8 in.)
Executed in 2020.

Full Cataloguing

£10,000 - 15,000 

Sold for £69,300

Contact Specialist

Simon Tovey
Head of New Now Sale
+44 20 7318 4084

New Now

London Auction 13 July 2021