Gates of No Return

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Paa Joe: Cape Coast Castle – Cape Coast. 1653 Sweden, 1665 Britain, 2004–2005 and 2017; Accra, Ghana Emele Wood And Enamel; 45 X 133 X 88 In.; American Folk Art Museum, Gift In Memory Of Claude Simard, 2018.13.1. Photo © Paa Joe, courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Gates of No Return
Curated by: Valerie Rousseau

2 Lincoln Square
10023 New York
October 30th, 2018 - February 24th

212. 595. 9533
Mon-Thu, Sat 11:30-7; Fri 12-7:30; Sun 12-6


Accra-based artist and craftsman Paa Joe (b. 1947), known for his figurative coffins that draw from the traditional Ghanaian custom of abebuu adekai, gained international recognition in seminal presentations like Magicians of the Earth (Pompidou, 1989). This exhibition presents a unique series of large-scale painted wood sculptures commissioned in 2004 and 2005—architectural models of Gold Coast castles and forts that served as way stations for more than six million Africans sold into slavery and sent to the Americas and the Caribbean between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Once forced through these “Gates of No Return,” they started an irreversible, perilous journey during which many died. This production alludes to Paa Joe’s coffins, seen as vessels ferrying the dead in the afterlife, speaking to spirits separated from bodies in trauma. Archival documents and recordings accompany the show.

Curator: Valérie Rousseau, curator, Self-Taught Art and Art Brut, American Folk Art Museum

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