Rufai Zakari: There is still tomorrow

3 September - 8 October 2022

  • Rufai Zakari

    Rufai Zakari

    Rufai Zakari (b.1990) is based between Accra and Bawku, Ghana. He completed his apprenticeship under Mozzay, a senior artist in Nima, Accra. In 2011, Rufai Zakari graduated from the Ghanatta College of Art and Design. In his work, Zakari examines consumerism, environmental pollution, labour, trade, and the perils of industrialization in contemporary Ghanian Society. The founder of Rujab Eco-Art Foundation in his hometown of Bawku,  Zakari bases his practise on the recycling of waste in the streets of Ghana. After decades of tribal conflict which took countless lives and left the city in ruins, Zakari is now looking to the future with optimism and a strong ambition to rebuild what has been lost, while inspiring hope in his community.


    Solo exhibitions include (Upcoming) Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, Berlin (2022); Gallery T293, Rome (2022); A New Dawn, Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, London (2021).


    Group exhibitions include (Upcoming) The Armory Show, The Breeder Gallery, New York (2022); Intersecting Identities, Arushi, USA (2022); Global Positioning, Public Art Fund, New York, Boston and Chicago (2022); Entre-acte, Selebe Yoon, Dakar, Senegal (2021); More is More: Visual Richness in Contemporary Art, Akron Art Museum, US (2021); 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, London (2021); Devil’s in the Detail, Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, London (2020); This Exhibition is Untitled, Nubuke Foundation, Accra (2020); "CirculArt" Sustainable Art Exhibition by Eco Reward, Casa Trasacco Accra (2019); World Behind the Horizon, Gess Gallery, Dusseldorf (2019); Sustainable Art Workshop, Merck Foundation, Dubai (2019); Sustainable Art Workshop, British High Commission, Accra (2018); Violence Against Women Exhibition, Alliance Francaise Accra (2018); "Yoomo Be Ga" Recycle Art Exhibition, Museum of Science and Technology, Accra (2017); Ghana Netherland Cultural Week Exhibition, Accra (2016); "African Champions" Mural in collaboration with (You Are For Africa), Lagos (2015).


    Highlights and collections: Rufai Zakari’s work is held in important private and public collections including Arthur Lewis Collection (US); Easton Capital/John Friedman Collection (US); Nubuke Foundation, (Ghana); The Beth Rudin Dewoody Collection (US); The Ditau Collection (South Africa); Susan Goodman Collection; VG Collection; Akron Museum Collection (US); JOM Collection (Senegal); AMMA foundation (Mexico); The Africa Centre Collection, London, (UK).

  • There is still tomorrow

    There is still tomorrow

    Ghanaian artist Rufai Zakari stitches together upcycled plastics to create textured, woven surfaces that bear a deep relationship to the land and local culture. Since his last exhibition with the gallery in London in 2021, Zakari has been forced to relocate permanently to Accra due to the resurfacing of tribal conflicts in his hometown of Bawku. However, rather than focusing on the hardships currently facing the local communities, Zakari’s latest works are a celebration of a vibrant past and a message of hope for the future. There is still tomorrow, the artist’s solo exhibition at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery Berlin, presents a bold new series of portraits that encapsulate this optimism. The figures appear relaxed and joyful as they pose proudly in bright, elaborate clothes or caught in playful, childish activities.


    Zakari began utilising found objects, such as plastic bottles and food packaging, after noticing the huge quantities of waste that litter the cities of Ghana. In an effort to engage with this issue on both a personal and social level, the artist invited women and children from Bawku to collect and bring him plastics. He paid each individual for their efforts and also employed a few people to help him in the studio with washing, dying, compressing, cutting and fusing the scraps into shapes which he layers over sketches and then stitches together. While he still works with a few assistants who have travelled with him from Bawku, Zakari is no longer able to engage with the wider community which has slowed the production of his work but also inspired a new approach to portraiture.


    The figures in Rufai Zakari's works seem life-like in their three-dimensionality-when hung, they cast shadows on the wall behind them-but they also seem lost, detached from any sense of time and place. This sense of dislocation reflects the artist’s own situation as he finds himself unable to return home but also makes reference to the ongoing migrant crisis in which millions of people across the globe find themselves caught in an in-between state as they transition from one life into another. At the same time, however, the artist’s decision to remove contextual detail asserts a certain type of freedom. The figures are no longer constrained by any social or cultural norms, while we, as the viewer, are able to perceive them without judgement or expectation, through the lens of our own experience. The image of a little boy riding a pink and blue bicycle, for example, becomes a universal symbol for not only the innocence of childhood but also the power of play as a form of creative release or temporary escape. Significantly, many of Zakari’s figures also appear in groups or pairs, conveying an idea of strength found through friendship and human connection. ‘I choose to focus on women and children in my work because I believe they are the future,’ explains Zakari.


    While each of the works in the exhibition possesses its own distinct character and mood, they come together to paint a colourful picture of community life and togetherness. In this way, There is still tomorrow serves as a powerful reminder of how art can not only uplift but inspire new ways of perceiving the world around us.