"The pesewa coin installations appropriate Ghana's nearly worthless loose change as structural material for raising questions about state policies, economic practices, and the meaning of independence. As part of another measure to cure the economy’s inflation, these coins were introduced in 2007. Today they have almost no value, and are not accepted by most sellers and informal shops. Ironically, some of the few establishments that use them today are elite supermarkets and stores at the mall. The pesewa creates a paradoxical connection between classes and positions: the currency almost anyone within the system can possess, but which almost no one carries or uses. In my works, thousands of the copper coins are submitted to chemical and natural processes to evoke age and use, then fixed onto metal sheets or wood panels face-down, with the national coat of arms visible. Formed into geometric bodies, geographic and fluid forms, the factions are distinguished by coloration. Just as the coins react to various chemical elements (water, air, heat, vinegar, salt, etc.), reactions emerge between patterns in the construction of the work. Acquired through a series of negotiations with Ghana's banks, the coins navigate the bureaucracies that continue to demarcate social movement. Exhibited as a structural work standing in two and three dimensions, the gleaming cash bank fires urgent embers amidst an allure of gleaming money. The devalued coin transforms into a mechanism for mapping new possible relations, for inventing a more resourceful future." Yaw Owusu
B. 1992. Yaw Owusu creates sculptural installations that repurpose found objects, shifting their value of otherwise-worthless materials into things of value. Built from countless pieces of 1 pesewa Ghanaian coins, his work activates urgent questions around Ghana’s economy, political systems and independence. The currency introduced in an attempt to cure the country’s inflation in 2007, the coins has now almost no value in the financial climate, enabling the artist to use them as a primary material. Typical of Owusu’s approach to working with local agencies to develop his work, the artist acquired the coins through series of negotiations with the central Bank of Ghana – a bureaucratic process that is as important to the artist’s practice as the final works.
Yaw Owusu is a graduate BFA Painting from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and was part of the selected artists for the 89plus workshop at the Nubuke foundation. His works have been included in exhibitions including Silence between the Lines, 2015 in Kumasi; The Gown must go to Town, 2015 at the Science and technology museum, Accra; If you Love me in 2016, at the Kumasi Locomotive shed; Chalewote art festival, 2016; Cornfields in Accra, 2016 at the science and technology museum; Part IV internat Artist project, Galerie 102 – Berlin and his first solo show, All that glitters in 2017 at Gallery1957 who also currently represent the artist.
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