Paapa Shango (originally from Accra, Ghana, lives and works in Brussels) focuses in his work on the realization of paintings. For this purpose he almost exclusively uses acrylic paint on canvas. Shango’s work is strongly linked to the African continent. By bringing together the symbolism of various African cultures in one work, he creates a new visual language. In doing so, he creates a kind of blend of the rich variety of African expressions in the visual arts. This is reflected in his work in the form of whimsical images with a surrealist character.

Shango’s paintings are immediately distinguishable by their striking color palette, tribal motifs and expressive forms. He is inspired by the brightly printed textiles typical of West African costumes. In his paintings, he often takes motifs from the Fulani tribe, but combines them with voodoo elements typical of the Ewe tribe of Togo. We also recognize, for example, the typical seeds that were once used as money in West Africa. The use of wooden elements also symbolizes the “welcome” in this region.

In addition to the implementation of art movements from the African continent, Shango also reflects on Pan-Africanism and the Black (African-American) civil rights movement in his work. In his book “African Heroes,” he presents four heroes who fought for black political or religious rights in Africa and North America: Malcolm X, Heile Selassi, Martin Luther King and Kwame Nkrumah. The heroes are overshadowed by the symbol Gyei-Nyame, which for the Ashanti tribe means “there is nothing but God.”

This text was born from a conversation between Paapa Shango and Elias Cafmeyer, which took place in 2022.