You can find this artwork beneath the Canopy Walkway in our Rainforest Biome.
El Anatsui, Aziza Gate
El Anatsui Aziza Gate, 2004
The tropical hardwood from which Aziza Gate has been carved started life as trees in West Africa. The wood was repurposed from charred timbers after a section of the Victorian docks in Falmouth was destroyed by fire in 2003.
El Anatsui draws connections between consumption, waste and human impact on the environment, whilst questioning the legacy of colonialism and the current economic and cultural exchanges between Africa and the rest of the world. He raises questions about ethnic identity and addresses a wide range of political and social concerns through the juxtaposition of specific materials, combining abstraction with his local aesthetic traditions.
About the artist
El Anatsui (born in Anyako, Ghana 1944) currently lives and works in Nigeria and has played a major role in redirecting the Western focus on contemporary art, emerging from the vibrant post-independence art movements of the 1960s and ‘70s in West Africa.
Throughout a distinguished forty-year career as both sculptor and teacher, the artist has addressed a vast range of social, political and historical concerns, and embraced an equally diverse range of media and processes.
El Anatsui is interested in using what he describes as ‘Language from home […] from my own culture and environment', creating objects heavily based on traditional Ghanaian beliefs, motifs and subjects. He often incorporates what he calls 'Adinsubli', an acronym made up of uli, nsibidi and Adinrka symbols.
He is best known for his transformative approach to materials, drawing particular international attention for his large-scale installations. In addition to traditional materials, Anatsui re-purposes scrapped items usually sourced from West Africa, such as old milk tins, bottle caps and iron nails. He turns the discarded into objects of beauty, and highlights that there are some places in the world where people have to re-use materials out of necessity, rather than as a choice. His juxtaposition of traditional African aesthetics, Western abstraction and modernism, and cast-off materials, hints at topics such as global consumerism and the history of colonial trade.