Aplerh-Doku Borlabi- Shia Hiɛ Nyam Woo: Honouring Home : Accra, Gallery II

3 Jun - 11 Jul 2022

For his first solo show Shia Hiɛ Nyam Woo: Honouring Home, Borlabi presents resplendent re-imaginings of his reflections of home: an enchanting collection of proud portraits celebrating the effulgence of existence that will enrapture the viewer as their eyes glide over them. Inspired by the Ga proverb Gbɔ hiŋmɛii dara waa, shi enaaa maŋ lɛ mligbɛ kɛ mli nibii (the eyes of a stranger may be very large, but he does not see the inner things of the town), he invites the viewer to his hometown Nungua to see as eye see. Emboldened on canvases, whimsically washed with pastel tones and brilliant brights, are homages to his homefolk.


Skin crafted from carefully selected coconut sheath, precisely cut and assembled in a perfect puzzle-like manner, each expertly executed figure stands out against a lucid backdrop. A backdrop fashioned from a palette of sun-nourished and carefully picked lavenders, periwinkles, cornflowers, hibiscuses and Tuscan golds. Dressed in highly pattered clothes, which complement and illuminate their skin, each person he renders harmoniously hums a sweet melody of self-love over a strong beat of self-determination. Soft and gentle, yet striking with the redolence of Nungua, they are unrelenting and alive like the pulse of African pride and embody the very nature of Nu (Water): the capacity to cultivate calmness; cleanse the soul; wash with wisdom, and evoke a proclamation of gratitude' wɔ yɛ wala!' (We have life!)

The collection's centrepiece is a striking portrait of his wife, Maame Serwaa I. Poised and composed, she sits on a royal azure throne, the cushions patterned with the ripples of the ocean mimicking the melodic movement of the cleansing expanse of water. Like the sea, her presence, although expansive, is not engulfing. Her stance, whilst strong, evokes stillness. The Queen of his life, she is his supporter, his anchor, that who roots him- a place where he finds home. His life force: a personification of Nu (water). This portrait, Maame Serwaa I, is one of three tributes to his wife in the collection and the largest of them all. It prominently shows the thematic symbols of Nu, which can be found throughout the collection but most obviously in Maame Serwaa III, whose earrings resemble a droplet of cool refreshing water and Azure Dreams. In Maame Serwaa II, where she can be found lounging on a yellow sofa body comforted by home attire, which enfolds her skin the way her support does him, she is an embodiment of home comfort. Through these portrays, he expresses the duality of her nature which is strong enough to support whilst gentle enough to comfort.

Extract from text by Chantel Akwɔrkɔr Thompson

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