Penn Center presents ‘In the Footsteps of My Ancestors’

The York W. Bailey Museum at the historic Penn Center on St. Helena Island presents, “In the Footsteps of My Ancestors,” a beautiful and soul-stirring original art collection created by watercolorist and painter William Kwamena-Poh. The museum will introduce the artist and his collection at a “Meet-the-Artist” wine and cheese reception on Friday, May 16 at 6 p.m.

Serenity by William Kwamena-Poh.
Serenity by William Kwamena-Poh.

William Kwamena-Poh is a native of Ghana, West Africa, who came to the United States in the early 1980’s and has lived in Savannah since 1995. He is an incredibly gifted self-taught artist who paints beautiful, vibrant and skillful works of art.

“When looking upon William’s work, you notice immediately that he is greatly influenced by his Ghanaian culture and the love of his people and homeland,” states Victoria Smalls, Director of History, Art and Culture at Penn Center. Smalls says, “Cultural traditions look to the past for authenticity as cultural traits are handed down generation to generation. The Ghanaian, West African and Gullah Geechee cultures are one in the same and that fact is so evident in William’s work. This artist expresses his culture and has manifested it in many forms, perhaps in the cloth — a woman adorns on her body or as a headdress, in work — as a fisherman sews his cast net to catch fish for his family, in a name — on the side of the bateau a man builds to cross the water or in the sweetness expressed on a child’s beautiful brown face.  William Kwamena-Poh does this wonderfully well and as if you are viewing a beautiful photograph or postcard from Ghana.”

William states that “The sun’s strength is ever present, providing a colorful environment which is strongly reflected in Ghana culture..” When he visits Ghana, he takes several photographs of the places he grew up and then creates sketches that depict the natural and original feel of the scenes. He then transfers the drawing onto watercolor paper, manipulating the colors to add beautiful textures and emotional qualities of the scene.

Known internationally for his series images of women, fishermen, children and market scenes, William’s work has been featured in numerous museums and galleries. His work is collected by private and well-known public figures in the U.S. and abroad, and his award-winning works have even graced the sets of TV’s “The Cosby Show,” “Moesha,” “Living Single,” “Motown 30” and “South Central.”

William’s father was aware of his artistic talent; however, wanted William to follow in his footsteps in sharing the history of his people as a historian, a wish and desire William did not possess. In time, divine intervention saw both a father’s wish and a son’s protest through an altered lens.   William’s art is a gift and he shares the history and culture of his homeland and people through his paintbrush.

“In the Footsteps of My Ancestors” will be on exhibit at the York W. Bailey Museum from May 16 through June 21.   The York W. Bailey Museum is located at 16 Penn Center Circle West, St. Helena Island. For more information about the museum and the exhibit, contact Penn Center at 843-838-2432 or 838-2474 or info@penncenter.com.

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