Out of Whole Cloth

Out of Whole Cloth

Published on Friday, July 26, 2019. This article appears in the June/July 2019 issue of American Craft Magazine.
Author Staff
Serge Attukwei Clottey, Packed Community

Serge Attukwei Clottey, Packed Community, 2016, plastic, wire, oil paint, 6.5 x 5 ft.

Courtesy of the artist and Gallery 1957

Serge Attukwei Clottey knows the power of the quotidian. The 34-year-old Ghanaian artist works not to elevate the everyday, but to recognize the creativity and wonder that already reside within it. With a small shift in perspective, ordinary objects take on new meaning.

Textiles play a big role in his work. For one of his best-known projects, My Mother’s Wardrobe (2015), Clottey donned his late mother’s clothing and walked around the capital city of Accra, where he lives, to honor her memory, and to challenge traditional gender norms and customs that would have deprived him of these mementoes.

His Afrogallonism project similarly examines customs and gender roles. He takes ubiquitous plastic yellow gallon jugs often used to collect water, cuts them up, and weaves them into a new kind of cloth. “They are of the streets, they’re everywhere, but they are related to women because most of the time they’re the ones who collect water,” Clottey told the Guardian in 2016. “So I like to bring them into the gallery space – to give them that prestige.”

Packed Community (2016) places the jugs in a new context, highlighting distinct surfaces bleached by sun or muddied by use. Woven together, with their just-different hues, they seem cooperative, celebratory, almost choral. On some of the central squares, Clottey paints linear designs resembling bar codes. A common container has become – or has been revealed to be – a canvas.