Related themes


Migration and Movement

Artists move around the world, shifting their identities, cultural traditions, and artistic techniques.


Bleeding Takari II

El Anatsui
(Ghanaian, born 1944)

2007. Aluminum bottle caps and copper wire, 148 × 219 5/16 × 30 11/16" (376 × 557 × 78 cm)

Born in Ghana and based in Nigeria, El Anatsui has become known for shimmering wall hangings like Bleeding Takari II. He works with wood, clay, and, perhaps most recognizably, salvaged metal liquor bottle caps and seals discarded by Nigerian distilleries. With copper wire and a team of studio assistants, he weaves these crushed and flattened metal pieces into installations, sculptures, and wall hangings—like Bleeding Takari II—that combine elements of textiles (especially Ghanaian kente cloth), sculpture, and painting.

More than visual feasts, these works reflect the fraught networks of exchange between Africa, Europe, and America, since liquor was among the key currencies of the slave trade. “Alcohol was one of the commodities [Europeans] brought with them to exchange for goods in Africa,” Anatsui has explained. “Eventually alcohol became one of the items used in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.”1 Though many have seen references to recycling in these pieces, Anatsui explains that this is not his intention: “Recycling has to do with the industrial process, and that’s not what I do. I don’t…return the bottle caps back as mere bottle caps. They are given a new life, and [I] make them not objects that do something utilitarian but objects of contemplation.”2

"El Anatsui” Clark art, last modified 2011. Available online at http://clarkart.edu/exhibitions/anatsui/content/exhibition.cfm
El Anatsui, quoted in "Change," Art21, https://art21.org/watch/art-in-the-twenty-first-century/s6/el-anatsui-in-change-segment/

A three-dimensional work of art made by a variety of means, including carving wood, chiseling stone, casting or welding metal, molding clay or wax, or assembling materials.

A work of art made from paint applied to canvas, wood, paper, or another support (noun).

The materials used to create a work of art, and the categorization of art based on the materials used (for example, painting [or more specifically, watercolor], drawing, sculpture).

An element or substance out of which something can be made or composed.

A form of art, developed in the late 1950s, which involves the creation of an enveloping aesthetic or sensory experience in a particular environment, often inviting active engagement or immersion by the spectator.

Material World
El Anatsui uses locally sourced materials that have deep economic and social significance. He once explained, “As an artist, I think that I should work with processes and media that are around me.”