Dennis Owusu-Ansah: Re-envisioning the Culture
Ever ponder on what your top favorite American celebrity would look like wearing traditional kente cloth or ankara attire? Ghanaian artist, Dennis Owusu-Ansah, has taken it to the next level by recreating portraits of American celebrities being displayed in traditional wear.
I was able to get in touch with Dennis, the ingenious man behind all of these African inspired pieces and ask him few questions based on his work.
Here’s what he had to say.
Where are you based and how long have you been putting your artistic creativity to use?
I’m based in New York City. Been putting my artistic creativity to use for about 7 years now.
What made you come up with the idea to be creative and incorporate African attire with American celebrities?
After witnessing my friend getting teased by a group of men for wearing a kente cloth on our way to church, I figured something must be done to change the perspective of people who are not familiar with the African culture. They had no idea what my friend was wearing. One of the guys shouted, “that man has a blanket wrapped around his body like it’s winter time”. I saw this incident as an opportunity to educate people about who we (Africans) are, and what we stand for through my art.
How long does it usually take you to create a portrait?
A portrait usually takes me a day or two depending on the details. For example, the “Rihanna” and “Nicki Minaj” paintings took me exactly two days because of the detailing in their clothing.
Out of all of your portraits, which has been for your top favorite to work on?
“Zulu flotus” with Michelle Obama was my favorite to work on. It was very challenging and extremely detailed. I lost hope and almost gave up on that piece because it wasn’t coming out as I expected. I worked on this portrait for four days straight before reaching a point where I felt satisfied and happy.
How did you get into art? Was it something you majored in or just a hobby on the side?
Art wasn’t a major at school. It was just a hobby on the side. My intrerest in art began at an early age but I took painting seriously in high school when i took a art course for a semester.
Who was the most surprising person that has hit you up or acknowledged your artwork?
I was so surprised when P. Diddy posted one of my pieces (ZULU FLOTUS) on his instagram page. I wasn’t expecting that at all. My friends and family were calling my phone and my followers on different social media platforms kept tagging me in the picture. It was an amazing feeling to be recognized by such a legend.
Who are some of the artists you’ve been influenced by or inspired by?
Maxwell Dickson is the only artist who has a huge influence on me. He is an artist based in Los Angeles and his work of art is amazing.
Have you seen some backlash when someone people comment that they don’t like the two cultures mixed (Nas in kente for example)? And how do you respond to that?
OH YES! A lot of people on social media were offended when I depicted both Kim Kardashian and Kanye West in African attire. They called me all sorts of names and threatened to even killed me cause they felt like I was disrespecting the culture by featuring these two celebrities in my collection. MY RESPONSE? ‘HAHAHAHAHA’. I was very happy cause I was making noise with my art and they kept talking and passing it on to their friends on different social media platforms. so it was good for me.
Can you give us some info about your clothing line?
To bring more attention to my art, I decided to put them on clothing. So if someone couldn’t afford an expensive “Zulu flotus” painting, I’m sure he or she can afford a $60 “Zulu flotus” t-shirt. 50% of my clothing designs are hand-painted, meaning it’s done by hand and there are no printing machines involved. I’m also fascinated with bright colors because it attracts a lot of people to you and also channels your mood.
What do you have planned next?
All I can say is God is my driver and he takes me wherever he wants to take me.
These pieces of artwork can be seen casually across the internet but a life-size portraits can be made available for purchase on Dennis’s main website. You can also get to learn more about the artist and view more of his artwork on this website or his various social media accounts linked below.