Join us for an evening celebrating exhibition artist Paa Joe and the culture of his native Ghana. The evening will begin with a film screening of the documentary Paa Joe & The Lion, followed by a Q&A with director Benjamin Wigley and exhibition curator Valérie Rousseau. The program will conclude with a musical performance by a Ghanaian drumming ensemble led by Master Drummer Hola Kutte and a Ghanaian street snack reception catered by Brooklyn-based Kelewele.
The documentary Paa Joe & The Lion provides a window into the workshop of master figurative coffin craftsman Paa Joe in Accra, Ghana. His figurative coffins draw from the traditional Ghanaian custom of abebuu adekai, taking the form of everyday objects to honor what was meaningful or representative of the deceased person’s life. The film follows the making of a figurative coffin, from the workshop to the burial, through interviews with the artist and footage of a traditional Ga funerary procession.
Special thanks to cultural partner ArtsWestchester for its support in coordinating the musical performance.
Benjamin Wigley is an artist and filmmaker from Nottingham, England. In 2010, he founded the company Artdocs, whose work spans platforms and audiences by exploring multilayered, immersive journeys through experimental film, documentary, art, and interpretation. Artdocs’s first independent short film, P.S. Your Mystery Sender, played internationally in 2010 and 2011 at SXSW, DOCFEST, HotDocs, and the Palm Springs International Film Festival. It won Best Short Documentary at Rushes National Film Festival, and was broadcast on BBC, SVT, and SBS. Ben has worked on a number of ambitious experimental film projects with the National Trust with support from the Arts Council England, merging technology and fine art practice to create film experiences in landscapes. In 2015, he completed an epic project that exhibited at Somerset House, titled One and All—a truly experiential production merging physical exhibition, online interactive journey, and celluloid film. In 2017, he developed this idea further by working with renewable energy engineer Dr. Matt Little and Mixed Reality Lab at Nottingham University to create a series of film and sound interventions in the landscape completely powered by a human or by the sun.
In 2016, Ben directed, filmed, and edited his first feature length documentary, Paa Joe & The Lion. A cinematic documentary film rooted in the universal themes of love, death, and legacy centered on Ghana’s artist and coffin maker Paa Joe. The film began as part of Documentary Campus Masterschool 2012. It was supported by Creative England, Worldview, and raised £22.5K on Kickstarter from 350 backers. The development of the project included an international artist residency and performance at Clumber Park in 2013, supported by Arts Council England. It has screened at more than thirty international festivals and galleries, including SXSW, Sheffield Doc/Fest, DocsMX, and Margaret Mead Film Festival. It was picked up by Taskovski Films, who sold it to Amazon Prime. Artdocs was selected as one of the top fifty creative companies in the UK for 2017 by Creative England. In the same year, Ben was invited to do a month-long artist residency in Canada at Liaison of Independent Film Toronto, Artscape, and Philip Hoffman’s Film Farm, where he generated much of his experimental film footage used in his second feature film A Life on Earth, which has just finished post-production and is being submitted to festivals now.
“I am an artist and filmmaker whose work explores the journeys we make in life. My projects are often realized in the space between art and documentary. I’m currently interested in how we talk about our lives through the metaphors of the natural world, and in the connections that we make between memory and place. I’m developing work that allows the viewer to get a sense of both a physical and an experiential journey: interacting, immersing, and participating.” —Benjamin Wigley
Kelewele is a food vendor dedicated to creating innovative plantain dishes inspired by cuisine from across the globe. Having grown up in a traditional Ghanaian home where plantains were a staple, owner Rachel Laryea fell in love and has been cooking them up in creative ways ever since. The name “Kelewele” is adopted from a popular Ghanaian street food made with diced plantains fried in savory spices and herbs—a favorite of Rachel’s over the years. Although Kelewele has its roots in West Africa, it incorporates Latin, Caribbean, and South Asian culinary techniques, among others, into its creations.
Image: Paa Joe & The Lion film poster. Courtesy of Benjamin Wigley and Artdocs.