Joy is our birthright, our support system and our collective weapon – Raphael Adjetey Adjei Mayne
Society is filled with images of brutality against people of colour. In 1994, Elizabeth Alexander, poet and president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, wrote “Black bodies in pain for public consumption have been an American national spectacle for centuries.” 20 years later, her meditation on images of anti-black violence is more relevant than ever. Cell phones filming George Floyd’s arrest and death is only one of many tragic examples.
In his solo exhibition, titled THE JOY OF MY SKIN, Ghanaian artist Raphael Adjetey Adjei Mayne (°1983) wants to create release and moreover: Joy.
By capturing and celebrating black experiences, the artist states: “In a world that focuses on pain and images of brutality and battered bodies, creating joy is truly a radical act”.
Mayne’s body of work combines social criticism and childhood memories with contemporary influences from fashion, design and fine arts. His portraits on coloured, unstretched canvas and cardboard are characterised by a mix of oil pastel, chalk, acrylic and implementations of recycled fabrics and African Wax prints.
Stating that “detailing the face reduces his message”, Mayne eliminates the facial features of his protagonists. In this way, this exhibition is a strong and universal message on how to battle discrimination by using joy as collective weapon.
Raphael Adjetey Adjei Mayne lives and works near Cologne, Germany. He studied at the Ghanatta College of Art and Design, Ghana. Mayne recently gained international media attention with his portraits of Amanda Gorman and Kamala Harris. Gorman’s portrait was purchased by women’s rights and LGBT+ activist Amar Singh and donated to the Harvard University Museum since, “This work must be in an institution. It is a celebration of women, a celebration of Black women, a celebration of hope.”
Text: Lien craps