Isaac Opoku Badu, 2017
Acrylic on canvas - 57.8х79.8
Ruhengeri, Rwanda
How does the traveller see it?
(Fragment of a post from a Facebook page)
How much for a kilo of tigers?

I bought this painting in Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti region, in 2018. The artist, Isaac Opoku Badu, was young at the time, the tenth child in his family and now the among the top ten artists in his country.

Once an empire, Ashanti is now part of the Republic of Ghana – formerly known as the “Gold Coast”. Ships filled with gold and slaves would depart from the port of Elmina and sail to all corners of the Earth. At the Royal Palace, I asked a local guide why the kings of Ashanti, who had created such a powerful state, let their subjects be hauled away into slavery. His answer stunned me: the Ashanti were never slaves, but rather sold slaves. My guide from Togo (an ethnic Ewe) nodded his head, though he did not enjoy hearing this piece of historical background. The Yoruba people cost more than the Ewe, added the local Ashanti guide.

Let’s get back to the sale of snails drawn on the canvas. In the English-speaking country of Ghana they’re called “tigers”, clearly because of their yellow-striped coloring. Giant snails are a key source of food and exports for the country; literal tons of these snails are exported to the United States and Europe. It’s like a startup, Ghanean style, or a tutorial on how to become a millionaire: buy 100 snails and in a year, you’ll have 5000! 

Making money through cryptocurrency? Pssh.
What does the expert say?
Isaac Opoku Badu is one of Ghana’s most renowned contemporary artists. He studied at a local Art and Industry college. The themes of his artwork, which has received international recognition and can be seen at many exhibitions, are the natural world and the people of Africa. The figures in his canvases range from mammals to birds to plants to human portraits, and he sometimes draws them as if zoomed in, bringing them right up close to the viewer, other times cropping out sections of the composition, other times drawing the piece with almost complete realism or with a certain element of fantasy, reproducing every detail with care. Is his work comparable to “naîve hyperrealism”, a style of art that captivates the viewer with its richly detailed vision of everyday life and ability to drum up inspiration from the wonders of the real world? At the very least, that is how Badu’s work Snail Merchant finds itself in the collection.

Halyna Sklyarenko, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Fine Arts at the Institute for Art History, Folklore and Ethnology, M. Rylsky National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. Candidate in Art History, associate professor, member of the National Union of Artists of Ukraine.
Что скажет зритель?