Enam Gbewonyo: agbegbɔgbɔ

Henry Moore Institute, Leeds 

To mark the closing of Senga Nengudi’s first institutional solo exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute, on 17 February textile and performance artist Enam Gbewonyo delivered the performance piece agbegbɔgbɔ*. Meaning to breathe life or life force, agbegbɔgbɔ does so in a literal sense by once more activating Nengudi’s Sandmining piece.

The performance draws on the themes of Native American healing that inform this work and African tradition and ceremony that inform Nengudi’s Ceremony for Freeway Fets. Injected with symbology and cultural references particular to Gbewonyo’s heritage as a Ghanaian Ewe, the performance is both a response and a moment of pollination – the fusing of two cross-generational practices from polar worlds that are actually of the same mind and ethos.

Through this unison agbegbɔgbɔ becomes a symbol of endurance and journey both of the black diaspora and humankind. In real time it also provides a live healing space, enveloping its audience with the reverberating life force created by the energy of the performance.

Participating in this performance were Carmen Okome, a BA Fine Art student at the University of Leeds and Nii Kwartey Owoo, Director of Miishe African Music and Dance, Leeds. Okome’s practice focuses on expressions of identity and navigates the representation of the black female in current British culture through digital media, photography, painting, sculpture and performance. As Director of Miishe, Owoo’s heritage as a Ghanaian Ga underlies the original choreography he creates, fusing current global dance styles with the spiritual beliefs, storytelling and symbolism of the Ga people. Nii will bring agbegbɔgbɔ to life with live traditional Ewe drumming. 

*agbegbɔgbɔ – pronounced ag-bey-bor-bor

This event was a presented by HMI in collaboration with ICF. Enam participated in ICF’s Beyond the Frame programme (2016-2018). 

Images by Jerry Hardman-Jones