Anatsui is one the best known contemporary African artist of our times. Throughout his career spanning over 40 years Anatsui has been producing sculptural compositions out of raw and discarded material commonly found in Nsukka, a small town in eastern Nigeria where the artist lives and works. This large metal tapestry is a work commissioned specifically for the ROM. It is a striking and splendid example of a body of work developed by the artist since 2002, when he started working with liquor bottle tops discarded by local distilleries. The bottle tops are cut, flattened, or twisted and tied together with copper wire to create patterns, shapes, and movement. The folds and creases in the flexible composition are integral elements of the esthetic of the piece meant to change with time and gravity. Liquor bottle tops in Africa carry a strong historical reference to the cultural impact of colonial import goods, while at the same time reflecting the ability of African cultures to appropriate and resignify foreign elements into local customs and practices. In Anatsui’s work, the flattened tops do not lose their literal reference, yet they are transformed in scintillating fragments of beauty that invite the viewer to reflect on the multiple conceptual layers of these large abstract compositions.


  • Title: Straying Continents
  • Creator: El Anatsui
  • Creator Lifespan: 1944
  • Creator Nationality: Ghanaian
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Date: 2010
  • Location: Ghana, Africa
  • Provenance: This acquisition was made possible with the generous support of the Louise Hawley Stone Charitable Trust
  • Type: Tapestry
  • Rights: Royal Ontario Museum
  • Medium: Aluminum, copper wire
  • Accession Number: 2010.44.1.1-8

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