El Anatsui was born in a small town on the coast of Ghana. His father was a weaver of Kente cloth, the traditional West African fabric. During the 1960s, when Anatsui was studying art at the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana, the country achieved independence. In 1975, he moved to Nsukka, Nigeria, to assume a teaching position at the University of Nigeria. Now retired from teaching, Anatsui still lives and works in Nsukka. He is considered one of the most important living artists from the African continent.
Anatsui’s art is steeped in the traditions of West Africa, including signs and symbols derived from Akan people in Ghana and Igbo in Nigeria. He has incorporated African design into sculptures made from wood, clay or fabric. In the past two decades, he used metal—especially aluminum bottle caps from liquor bottles—to create sumptuous wall hangings such as New World Map, a work acquired specifically for the Welcome Center. Although it refers to a map in its title, New World Map is not a specific geographic space. This sculpture is vibrant with color and texture, as it expands and contracts across the surface.
El Anatsui. New World Map, 2009. Mixed Media, 133 7/8 x 196 7/8 inches. Gift of Fred and Lena Meijer.