It is said that “The eyes are the window to the soul.” They never lie, betray, or dismay; often revealing the depths of our identity that are undiscovered, and even unknown to us.
As I stare into the eyes of Solomon Adufah’s ‘ Forbidden Knowledge’ portrait, I see beyond the young figure’s skin of black marble, emboldened by the emerald galactic backdrop and wild flora. I see something so ancient and prehistoric, that it seems to transcend time and space itself. Looking into these eyes; soft, yet strong, old, yet young, is like staring into the very soul of Africa.
Solomon Adufah is far from your typical visual artist. Hailing from Odumasi, a small rural village in the Eastern region of Ghana, he vividly recalls his humble beginnings as an artist, and what would signal the start of a long, and winding artistic journey.
“My passion for creativity started at an early age growing up in rural Ghana,” he shared. “As far back as I can remember, growing up in a village without electricity, I used to power a small black and white TV set with my uncle’s car battery to watch a cartoon and practice sketching characters. As a child, it was a small canon from which I was able to express myself creatively.”
After several years of honing and refining his artistic gift, Adufah relocated to Chicago to pursue a more traditional career as an architect. However, his deep passion and desire to be an artist overpowered his ambition of becoming an architect, and it wasn’t long before Adufah followed his heart, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (BFA) in Fine Art & Painting from Southern Illinois University. Despite the uncertainty that came from switching careers and taking a leap of faith, Adufah warmly informs me, “It’s been a remarkable journey so far and I’ve never looked back since making that decision.”
What first struck me about Adufah’s work; besides the grand scale and the intricate detailing of the bold tapestry of African textile and fabric that feature as the background of his paintings, was the sitters themselves. They intrigued and fascinated me with their endearing, and at times, defiant expressions. Adufah masterfully captured so much emotion, intimacy and depth in each portrait that I felt compelled to know who they were, what their story was, and where they were from.
“My practice aims to create genuine and authentic portraits of the faces that make up the beautiful continent of Africa. I am interested in using my practice to reveal the hidden beauty woven into Africa’s social and geographical fabric. They expose viewers to a global perspective of the world, rather than a singular narrative meant to portray a viewpoint of the masses. My work reflects the diversity and richness lost in the deceptive mainstream representations of the African People and explores a self-referential perspective of the black image. I develop this group of portraits through a vital practice that requires a physical engagement with the community and the desire to travel,”
Uniquely, Adufah is equal parts artist and social activist. True to his love for exploration, travel and following his deepest passions, his creative soul does not just lend itself to a blank canvas, but also to a more profound purpose to inspire a generation of young creatives across Africa.
The young boy from the rural village in Ghana never forgot his roots, and the transformative power that art had for him. In 2017, Adufah established Homeland Africa; a non-profit organization that empowers young children in rural Africa through creative workshops. A percentage of his sold paintings inspired by the children he taught is used to fund educational resources.
In what could be described as inevitable, though I would argue fate and positive karma, and of course a nod to Adufah’s irrefutable talent; the local artist with a global outlook will finally be exhibiting for the first time outside of the United States – this November in Geneva. I believe it is fair to say that Solomon Adufah’s journey to date has been nothing short of inspirational, and serves as a great testament to the power of following one’s heart and purpose in life.
With the demand for contemporary African art rocketing in recent years, particularly across Europe, something tells me that Geneva will be the beginning of great things to come for this purpose-driven emerging artist. “A word to the wise,” as they say, is sufficient.