Heartily welcomed into his top floor flat in Streatham, I find myself on one of two bar stools in the middle of Kojo Marfo’s studio.
Lockdown difficulties have meant Kojo had to create his own workspace, and it is a room to behold. One wall-size painting in progress dominates the space, around which are a litter of paintings, magazine clippings, paint pots, brushes, upturned and broken chairs, loose canvases with paintings on them, one on top of the other on top of the other. Reams of tarpaulin hang over the banister, each an artwork in its own right. Bags with paintings inside are pushed against one another underneath the window, which is complete with a startling view over central London.
Kojo’s upbringing in the Akan culture of Ghana, alongside divergent family religions, gives him a certain understanding of art. It taught him to be respectful to other cultures and gave him a visual language to draw upon. I asked what is unique about it and how it has influenced and manifested in his work.
“Akan culture is just like any other, Dorset or Devon culture – but it is very broad, and there are different groups within the umbrella. Where I come from, we have these carvings, some are gods and others are dolls, and I saw both sides.
“On Saturdays you would go to traditional priests and healers – in England you would call it Voodoo – with drums, colourful clothes, and the things I saw shaped my understanding of social cohesion, that you can be part of it without having to assimilate, you can be there and be respectful, no-one expects you to act the same and wear the same things, and this has shaped my approach in terms of art.”