28 May An African Madonna – Amon Kotei

Amon Kotei is noted for his paintings of robust Accra women. These paintings, done with such etherealness that the women in spite of their size appear to float on his canvas, were his ode to the lovely Accra women of his childhood and adulthood. He loved Accra women, he would often say with a twinkle in his eyes.

The artwork, ‘Mother and child’ shows a different side of Kotei. Though it was done in 1959, it’s not necessarily an early-life artwork – Kotei was already 44 at this time and had worked in Accra, schooled in the UK, worked as a cartographer during the 2nd world war and was back in Accra working for the Government. This is one of the earliest Amon Kotei artwork you’re likely to see though and pre-dates his later ‘women’ artworks.

It is, on some level, a mother and child picture inspired by earlier Madonna and child artworks – an African Madonna and child. The young mother, the focus of the painting, is proud, determined and protective of her young child. Her flowing shawl hints at Kotei’s later trademark hues.

This could well be a straightforward mother and child piece, exploring the connection of a mother to her child and the fierce protectiveness of a young mother.

Or it could be something else altogether. This could be the young Ghanaian state as a mother — determined and fiercely protective of her people. Kotei had designed the Ghanaian coat of arms and would have been a keen believer in the new Ghanaian state.

The young mother’s halo carries the Ghanaian national colours.

This wasn’t just an African Madonna and child. This was an ode to independence, to new beginnings — a paean to a new motherland.

Would he have admitted to this if he were still alive? Maybe. Or maybe he’d have just smiled with that twinkle in eyes and told you to decide for yourself.

See other recent artworks from the gallery here.