Joshua Donkor is the winner of the AOI Members Cross-Category Award. Here, he tells us more about his award-winning project.
Generational Memories is my final year project for my Illustration course at Cardiff Metropolitan University. It is an exploration into my family’s connection to Ghana, spanning across three generations.
The brief I set myself was to create a project about my family’s experiences of Ghana. There were a group of themes that I wanted this work to cover and question, such as the impact of African Diaspora and the importance of culture and heritage on our sense of identity.
The project started with my most recent trip to Ghana and a journal I kept during the visit. This journal also touched on my Fathers childhood in Ghana and the slight disconnect that he experiences when he returns. This writing became the foundation for the project.
For many of the portraits I used Winsor and Newton oil paints and mediums like liquin and linseed oil. I used Acetone to create the photo transfers which I used throughout the project. This creates the ghostly images which you can see in the backgrounds of the portraits.
I begin my process with research into my project before outlining key themes that interest me and which I want my work to convey. I then experiment with different mediums and approaches until I find the most suitable and effective way for me to express the work.
One of the biggest challenges was readjusting the project once the possibility of physically showing the work became impossible. Fortunately with the use of online galleries and audio recordings I think I was able to make the body of work coherent and accessible in an online format.
One of the best things to come out of this project was the connection it helped me to establish with my family by talking about their experiences of Ghana. Similarly the responses from people have been wonderful and have shown that the work and narratives have connected with people.
I was also writing my dissertation about the presence of racial stereotyping in the history of Western artwork and how contemporary black artists are challenging this. My dissertation actually fed into the research for Generational Memories and particularly the way I approached the portraiture.
The project spanned from 1961 to 1974 which focused on my Dads childhood growing up in Ghana. It then jumps to 1987-90 which covers the years in which my Mother worked in Ghana as a VSO. The final part of the project reflect my personal memories of Ghana between 2005-2019.
This project is really an ongoing project so it will only continue to develop hopefully. In future work I want to expand it and be able to give voice to other people’s experiences of African cultures and family histories as well.
It’s a bit hard to give advice as I’ve only just graduated and have so much to learn about the industry. I guess the advice I would give to students in particular is to pursue the subject matter that your connected to and passionate about. Personally I think doing this has always resulted in my best work.
It’s a bit hard to give advice as I’ve only just graduated and have so much to learn about the industry. I guess the advice I would give to students in particular is to pursue the subject matter that your connected to and passionate about. Personally I think doing this has always resulted in my best work.I have been fortunate enough to receive an Artist Benevolent Fund Fellowship. This offers me funding, support and a studio space within Cardiff Metropolitan University for 12 months. I am now just starting the research for a new project called “Ancestral Foundations”.
I would love the opportunity to work with a publishing company and create imagery to help narrate a personal biography or narrative work of fiction.
Favourite thing to draw
I love portraits as you can probably see from my work!
My studio is within Cardiff School of Art and Design, right now it is covered in notes, books and lots of painting materials ready for new work!
To have my work selected was incredible honour considering the incredible talent and work of everyone in the WIA shortlist. Thank you to my Mum and Dad and wider family for their support and trust in helping me share our family story. And a huge thank you to my wonderful Illustration tutors Anna, Chris and Amelia.