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Caroline Collier

Caroline Collier wrote an essay for the catalogue accompanying Korabra: Paintings by Gavin Jantjes, an exhibition originated at Edward Totah Gallery, First Floor, 13 Old Burlington Street, London, taking place in 1986. (The exact dates of the London showing are not given in the accompanying catalogue, though its dates were 4 - 27 September 1986). Subsequent to its London showing, Korabra  was exhibited at Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool, 18 October - 22 November 1986 and Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry, 23 April - 5 June 1988 The series of paintings had been completed in 1986, and was introduced in Collier’s essay as follows:

“Inhumanity, the turning of people into commodity, is the evil faced in the seven large paintings which Gavin Jantjes has completed in the last few months. Korabra, the title of the sequence of otherwise untitled works, means to the Akan people of Ghana ‘to go and come back’. It is also the signal drum played at funerals. The word implies a journey, the longing to return home, and the spirit questing after its fulfillment. For Jantjes the journey is as much a search for a painterly language capable of expressing his vision of the present and his feelings about the past, as it is an examination of the bitter facts of slavery.

     His research into the history of the slave trade has brought with it a rigorous way of looking at his situation as an artist who happens to be black. An awareness of slavery is inseperable from this situation: the psychological and spiritual implications of the crime that dispossessed 120 million people haunt their descendants. It is a curious point that the most unspeakable of the crimes of imperialism does not tend to preoccupy the descendants of its perpetrators, who are far more likely to congratulate themselves for the philanthropists who brought about the end of the practice than than to dwell on the enormity of the crime.”

The seven paintings - executed in a limited range of sombre colours - are all reproduced in the accompanyng catalogue. Poems by Edward Kamau Brathwaite (erroneously named as Braithwaite in the catalogue) accompanied the paintings.

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