Grace Kwami Sculpture

Grace Kwami Sculpture
Atta Kwami
London, 1993
Edition: 6/32
National Museum of African Art, purchase funds donated by Brian and Diane Leyden, 93-17-1

Atta Kwami’s Grace Kwami Sculpture pays homage to the artistic life-work of his mother, Grace Salome Kwami (1923–2006), who was an art teacher and an artist in various media, but preferred working in clay.  This uniquely bound book with its tri-folded pages unfolds and stands on its edge to resemble the eight legs of a spider.  The spider is an allusion to the Ananse tales that are so much a part of Asante oral tradition.  Ananse the spider is known for his cleverness and skill, apt metaphors for Kwami’s mother’s creativity.[1]

Grace Kwami Sculpture by Atta Kwami, London, 1993. The book folds out into a star pattern with the binding of the book int he middle and accordion pages with three segments for each ray of the star.

Each leaf or “leg” of Grace Kwami Sculpture is devoted to a topic illustrated with images drawn from Atta Kwami’s personal archive of photographs and drawings.  The topics and headings include geography, methods of working, history and context, and artistic genres and their concomitant processes.

Grace Kwami Sculpture by Atta Kwami, London, 1993. Cover of the book depicting the words "Grace Kwami Sculpture" and six images of sculptures including human figures, vases and more abstract pieces.

Each side of a page is printed with images and brief commentaries and personal reflections by the artist on various aspects of Grace Kwami’s artistic endeavors, either at work or of her work; for example, see the image of Grace Kwami modeling a bust of a woman.

Grace Kwami Sculpture by Atta Kwami, London, 1993. Book open to two pages, one showing an photo of a woman sculpting a human face out of clay and another of the finished piece.

The images are produced through photo-lithography, etching, screen printing, and color Xeroxes on Somerset Satin 300 gsm paper.[2]  The printing was done at the Royal College of Art, London, with the help of technicians in the printmaking studio.

The book has a rush-bound spine and is housed in a hand-made box covered with grey wax print cloth bearing a comb design.  The covered box was assembled by the artist Pamela Clarkson, wife of Atta Kwami.[3]

Grace Salome Kwami, Ceramic Artist

Grace Kwami’s love for clay revealed itself in her early childhood when she was able to model all sorts of fruits and vegetables at the age of 4.[4]   Her interest in clay was fostered during her youth by her brother, for whom she turned the wheel while he was taking ceramic courses at Achimota College.

Kwami became a ceramic artist herself; she created functional pottery but cherished modeling portraits.

Grace Kwami Sculpture by Atta Kwami, London, 1993. The words "Shapes of Terra Cotta" are centered among 8 other images of sculptures, mostly human figures, heads and busts.

She also drew and sculpted figures, some life-sized, did printmaking, designed textiles, and created sculptures from natural materials such as gourds.  Her interest in figurative work was encouraged and developed during her studies at Kumasi College of Technology.[5]  She became a dedicated art teacher and artist and at one point also worked for the National Gallery of Ghana as a restorer of ceramic works.

Grace Kwami Sculpture by Atta Kwami, London, 1993. Drawing of a woman sitting and stirring a pot over an open fire with cooking ingredients on the wall and other pots nearby on the floor.

About the Artist

Atta Kwami (born 1956), an artist, art historian, and curator, was immersed in the arts early in life.  His mother introduced him to figure drawing; his father was a musician.[6]

His formal education included Achimota and Mawuli Schools, and the College of Art at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), where he studied painting and printmaking and then taught for many years.  In 2007 he received a PhD in art history from the Open University, Milton Keyes, in England, for his work on contemporary Ghanaian artists, now published as Kumasi Realism, 1951–2007: An African Modernism.

Kwami’s work is pioneering in its modernist approach.  As a painter and printmaker, he works in an abstract geometric style, with his patterns and color schemes reminiscent of Asante and Ewe weaving traditions.  His paintings also draw inspiration from the hustle and bustle of Kumasi.

Kwami’s fusion of Ghanaian cultural heritage with this uniquely modern Festschrift for his mother attests to his ingenuity and creativity, which she surely encouraged and nurtured.


Atta Kwami.

Court, Elsbeth J.   “Atta Kwami, (b. 1956),” Griot (Kumasi) 8 (2000): pages 151–158.

Court, Elsbeth J.   “In memoriam: Da Grace Salome Abra Kwami 1923–2006.” African arts (Los Angeles) 41 (2) (summer 2008): pages 10-11.

Grace Salome Kwami: 25 September 1923, 29 August 2006.  Life story of the late Grace Abra Kwami (neé Anku).  Funeral brochure, 2006.

Kwami, Atta.   Grace Kwami Sculpture.  Flyer distributed at the Artist’s Book Fair, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, May 1993.

Kwami, Atta.   Kumasi Realism, 1951–2007: An African Modernism.  London: Hurst & Company, 2013.

[1] Elsbeth J. Court, “In memoriam: Da Grace Salome Abra Kwami 1923-2006,” African Arts.  41 (2) (summer 2008): page 11.

[2]  Atta Kwami.  Grace Kwami Sculpture.  Flyer distributed at the Artist’s Book Fair, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, May 1993.

[3]  Atta Kwami, e-mail message, August 27, 2008.

[4] Grace Salome Kwami: 25 September 1923, 29 August 2006.  Funeral brochure, 2006.

[5] Atta Kwami, e-mail message, September 5, 2013.

[6] Court, “In Memoriam,” page 10.