product of my past

These things mean much to me. Let's hope they mean something to you

Shiri Achu: Happy Concoction art exhibition

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Shiri Achu is a Cameroonian-born, London-raised painter, whose latest exhibition, Happy Concoction, at the historic Tabernacle in west London, serves largely as a retrospective of her work to date.

This art is not about the precise reproduction of stills but about capturing the energy of people and places. She notices the beauty, colour and chaos of life and forces us to do the same with her broad strokes of vibrant acrylics applied to canvas.

The works displayed fall predominantly into two categories: ‘Heart&Soul&Africa’ and ‘La Fiesta’. The former pays tribute  to everyday scenes in Cameroon (a mother breastfeeding a baby; a man running after a chicken; a boy climbing a papaya tree, while other men are portrayed in the bright woven traditional gowns of the Grafi from north-west Cameroon). The latter depicts the exuberant people and costumes of London’s Notting Hill Carnival.

When asked why she makes art, the architect by training, who describes herself as being “born in a happy pot”, becomes  animated as she considers the reasons: “Selfishly, my art is first for myself,” she says, passing a hand through her mass of hair. “Then it is to bring joy to others and to educate. When I exhibit in Cameroon, my audiences learn nothing new but here [in England], my art serves to educate. I take people on a journey to my home.”

As she’s about to say more, the artist spots two women who’ve just arrived and are looking hesitantly round this foreign land. Like a good tour guide, and with a wave of apology in my direction, Shiri darts off to steer them through the landscapes of colour she’s created. Many minutes later as I make to leave, I spot one of the women, one time intrepid traveller, now proudly wielding a limited edition print in hand and wearing a broad smile on her face. Evidently, Shiri’s happy concoction, once sampled, is for many the flavour of the month.

You can catch Happy Concoction at the Tabernacle until 30 April. For further information call 0795 7367  135

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Written by Eliza

April 20, 2011 at 5:31 am

Posted in Art & Culture

Tagged with ,

One Response

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  1. I think Shiri makes a very important point here; one of the most powerful ways to educate people about different cultures is to provide them with something that they can enjoy.

    Shiri’s polychromatic depictions of her memories of customs she has grown up around shouldn’t simply be seen as an expression of self indulgence, but an important political act. In age where we are over-saturated with information and are surrounded by the ubiquity of new technology it’s easy to forget about the beauty of our personal traditions that unravel through the slowness of time.

    Celebrating the nuances embedded within our everyday lives has the potential to have a tremendous effect, and its significance is all too often overlooked as a source of enjoyment. It seems that it is only in crisis that the term political gets attached to works of art, but as Shiri points out real change comes from learning about the ordinary stuff people like to remember.

    Michael Otchie

    April 20, 2011 at 6:03 pm


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