By Lidia Abraha, p
Posted on January 25, 2021
“Colour and it’s connection to humanity is an intimate thing. It moves us to our core.”
These words said by Yaw Tony, a Toronto-based designer and artist, echoes strongly in his latest work in this year’s DesignTO Festival—Canada’s largest annual design festival that celebrates design as a multidisciplinary form of creative thinking and making with over 100 exhibitions and events.
‘(WA) Wearable ART’, is an extension of his collection “Life Liveth in Me (LLiM)’, where the textiles read like a storybook, and the viewer is taken on a journey of rebirth while gazing upon scenes of floral jungles, animals animated through unique colours, and stories of Ghanian folklore. Yaw Tony’s work has been showcased in all parts of the world including Germany and Milan, and globally recognized for shedding a contemporary light on African designs.
His collection “Life Liveth in Me (LLiM)’, was exhibited in Germany and part of Milan Fashion Week in 2018. The collection is an intriguing invitation to explore visual colourful odysseys that are first hand-drawn then coloured digitally.
He collaborated with Toronto clothiers Nana Bediako (@nanabediako) and Emefa Kuadey (@israellaKOBLA) to construct the pieces for this exhibit. From Jan 22 – Jan 31, ‘(WA) Wearable ART’ will be on window display at italDESIGN Showroom. Learn more here.
We spoke with the artist about his inspiration, creative journey, and how he breaks the rules of colour in his work. Check out our Q&A below!
Q: How would you describe your creative practice?
Preeminent in my work is the place of storytelling. Each colour is researched to connect the value and history of that colour to human behaviours, and to the narratives, I aim to tell and share. In my work, I intend to not simply capture the beauty and freeze it within a frame, but rather to paint ideas and questions.
My artistic/creative practice is rooted both in the idea of human value as well as how that idea is refined and re-expressed through colour. Like proverbs and parables, I play with the obfuscation of truths, weaving duality into this work. Lost in the colours, each of us tells a new story. Colour and the human(e) mix and, unbidden, a collective telling emerges.
Q: What drew you to the art of designing and textiles?
I will say [my interest in] the art of designing has always been there ever since I can recall, however, designing textiles, came later. I will say everything happened so naturally and I have not looked back. I get inspired by things around me, folk stories, and oldies High-Life music from Ghana. I design almost every day, like they say nothing is worse than a talented person who is absent.
Q: What was the inspiration behind ‘(WA) Wearable ART’?
(WA) is actually a continuum representation of “aesthete’s items”, which was the previous year’s install, introducing the application and deployment of the design patterns on almost any surface. With (WA) install, I did not want to just talk about inner beauty, which is the core philosophy and purpose of Life Liveth in Me (LLiM), but also design something that speaks about outer beauty. Because that which is beautiful is a pleasurable perceptual experience. I wanted to create something that is ″good″ or ″of fine quality″, that which is “being of one’s hour”. So, I will say, “the beauty the pattern conveys outwardly and the possible usage of the prints” was my inspiration.
Q: Your collection ‘Life Liveth in Me (LLiM) is influenced by the sophisticated details of African adages amalgam with the Western Culture. All the patterns, motifs and details are first hand drawn, and then transferred into colours to give it form and life. Is there a particular story or experience that ‘(WA) Wearable ART’ represents?
This installation is founded on the philosophy that beauty must be expressed, shared commonly, it is not only reserved for a limited circle of initiates but importantly it expresses the idea that value equals worth. No matter how beautiful the prints or the pieces are, you will only value it based on the worth you understand yourself to be.
Q: For this exhibition, you collaborated with Nana Bediako and Emefa Kuadey who are well-known clothiers in the city. How did this partnership come about, and what was it like working together for this project?
Both are good friends in the creative world. Nana Bediako is my business partner in many of the projects we are working on. An amazing tailor/designer and he sewed half of the exhibition. Emafa is a dear friend, an incredible fashion designer and I am in love with the structural sense of her fashion pieces so it was just a pleasure to have her on board to take on the other half of the exhibition.
Q: In what ways does your African ancestry inspire the work you do?
Honestly, there are tremendous untapped concepts, beauty, design aesthetics, stories, cultural heritage, depth of riches, and more every time I look into Africa—I am flabbergasted with ever-ending content. I like to extract the proverbs and folk stories into my artwork. You will see this approach in most of LLiM’s scarves’ designs. Every undiscovered precious gem, gold, diamond is still valuable and everything unknown, unseen, undiscovered still exists so I strongly believe that it is my duty as a creative person to extract all good gems neglected or covered yet in African.
It is said in Ghanian culture that when you use a leopard’s skin upon which to practice leatherwork, you have mastered your trade. LLiM (Life Liveth in Me) is a design/artistic brand dedicated to the creation of inimitable quality products, an odyssey into a world of visual journeys where artistry and character likewise demonstrate a mastery of design. The first install of brand scarves are available with many African adages and artworks enriched with moral idioms and folklore that arouse the value and worth in each one through our contribution to humanity. They are conversational pieces and expressions of visions. Please do visit the official website www.lifeliveth.com for the scarves.
Meet Ayanna Black, an early defender of Black art in Toronto
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