Adelaide Damoah RWA, FRSA
‘All of my performances have at their core the principle of Sankofa- ancient Akan (Ghanaian) idea which tells us to learn from our past in order to live a better present and future.’
British-Ghanaian artist Adelaide Damoah works at the intersection of painting and performance within the context of colonialism, identity, sexuality and spirituality. After studying applied biology (BA Hons, Kingston University, Surrey, her subsequent career in the pharmaceutical industry was cut short following a diagnosis of debilitating chronic endometriosis. While convalescing, she dedicated herself to art.
Since her debut exhibition ‘Black Brits’ in 2006 (Charlie Allen’s Boutique, London, UK), Damoah has exhibited in myriad group shows including Opera Gallery, Budapest, Hungary (2009); Bargehouse Gallery, London (2015) as part of the AACDD Festival; ‘A Seat at the Table’, 198 Gallery, London, ‘Dispersed’, Nubuke Foundation (+Chale Wote), Ghana; UNFOLD Festival, London; Article 10, Amnesty International, London, ACDF Festival, Lagos, Nigeria, and in 2018 at ‘We Face Forward’ Bonhams, London, Little Africa Des Gosses, Marrakesh, (Off the Tracks) as part of an artist residency. In 2019, Damoah was selected for ‘No Room for Fear’ with SMO Contemporary, BBFA Collective and Smithsonian in London, ‘Under the Skin’ (Royal College of Physicians Museum, London), and ArtX Lagos with Tafeta Gallery.
She has performed internationally including her ongoing ‘Confronting Colonisation’ project (Into The Mind Of The Coloniser 2019 and 2020), ‘#MYFACE’ Visual Diet, Cannes Lions Festival, Cannes, ‘This is Me: The Inconsistency of the Self II’ Musée national de l’histoire de l’immigration, Paris, Adidas ‘Calling all Creators’ performance Portland Oregon, USA. Past solo exhibitions include ‘Supermodels’, Nolia’s Gallery, London (2008); ‘Domestic Violence’, Mayfair, London (2009); ‘This is Us’, Camden Image Gallery, London (2015) and ‘Genesis’, 1 Bedford Avenue, London (2018).
Damoah has works in private collections nationally and internationally. She is a member of the BBFA Collective which is represented by Tafeta Gallery, London and is a founding member of INFEMS (Intersectional Feminist Collective). In 2019, Damoah was appointed as an academician of the Royal West of England Academy (RWA) and was an invited artist and selector at their open exhibition in Bristol.
Damoah’s current practice involves using her body as a “living paintbrush” to paint or print onto various surfaces. The artist works with photographs and text later in the creation of the work. Damoah was initially inspired by a desire to subvert Yves Klein’s “Anthropometries” series and engage in live performances as the first part of her creative process- body printing and writing.
“Damoah is interested in the use of recorded history to generate a spontaneous response. Where the previously known becomes unknown and becomes known again. The uncanny- the familiar within the familiar, or the unfamiliar within the familiar. Through her performances, she is the channel by which the previously unknown becomes known again. Damoah’s performances are products of organic processes which depend not only on the different modes of sensory perception of her body of unambiguous (i.e. explicit and literal) and ambiguous (i.e. implicit and metaphorical) processes and events taking place in their multi-sensory perceptions of the sensory world; but also on the individual (mental and bodily sensory) and collective (cultural) memory-images she derives from both these different modes of perception and their diasporic experiences.
The processes of production of such mythopoetic artwork may be conceived in terms of life-cycles in which the ancestral life that was previously unknown – and therefore alien become known in the artwork, only to become partially/totally replaced by another life which was previously unknown. Damoah uses her work to explore the unstable boundary distinctions between the human ‘subjective self’ and the non human ‘objective other’ materials of nature with which she conjointly produces these artworks. A viewer of her performances may experience both an enhanced/impaired distinction between his/her self’ and the profane/sacred ‘other’ life(s) in a (sub)liminal ‘zone’ of perception that was previously forbidden to him/her; and encourages the viewer to attribute mysterious, enigmatic and unfixed meanings to the ancestral/new life.
[Her] visual artmaking contests the outdated idols and ideologies of colour, race, creed and gender imposed both on her – and on the Eurocentric and non-Eurocentric history of her family – by colonialism and neo-colonialism. Damoah revalues – and thereby unbinds herself from – these outdated idols and ideologies by using the Prothe artist the fire of her mythopoetic thinking to magically produce artistic images that function as ‘crucibles’ in which she (al)chemically interweaves materialised the artistmory-traces of her family in the past and the present.”
Extract From Stephen Baycroft’s essay: Beginning a new life by revaluing idols and ideologies © 2018.
Damoah’s main artistic influences are Judy Chicago, Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Hammons, Yves Klein, Sokari Douglas Camp, Rachel Ara and Ana Mendieta.