Marcus Garvey once said, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” Though, what good are roots to a people without an outlet and avenue to facilitate their knowledge of the past and personal growth toward the future. Well, at the root of the African community in the Twin Cities lies Koffi Mbairamadji, an accountant by day; painter and storyteller all the time. From Chad, Koffi came to the U.S. in 2002 and took part in the Twin Cities French Festival the following year. He got his start at Intermedia Arts and from there met other Africans to start his own collective group of artists called Gosso.
“I get most inspiration from museums” -Artist Koffi Mbairamadji, May 6th, 2008, ANJ Online
His first show was in 2003 with a collective of African artists from a variety of countries throughout the continent. This show helped launch Gosso in 2004 (which means artists in the Ngambai language – from Chad). Gosso later did a show in 2004 called “Kingana,” which means “getting together,” as it refers to the African community.
In 2005 he was involved in a showcase at Mira Gallery titled “Africa Daily Life” to display to the public the way Africans live “everyday lives” throughout the entire continent. His third show was titled, “Africa Traditional Values,” in 2007, which showcased the ways in which Africans living in the U.S. have and have not maintained their indigenous tradition.
“Africa Contribution,” their fourth show, showcased what Africans across the continent have contributed in Minnesota. As I observed Koffi’s paintings that are currently being displayed in the Obsidian Arts Gallery located on Lake Street, I noticed abstract African figures and various African objects put together to display exactly what its title represents.
A natural born artist, “I get most inspiration from museums,” he stated. Koffi began his career as a painter 10 years ago using primarily acrylic paint because it dries fast which is useful, due to the lack of sun in Minnesota most of the year. Now Koffi and his arts collective is still going strong, as there are five members of Gosso from five different counties: Ivory Coast, Chad, Central Africa Republic, Somali, and Burkina Faso. .
Koffi also just completed a children’s book of art called, “African Savannah Stories.”
“I just want kids to know about moral lessons. In Africa we use animals to tell lessons. Animals serve as living books.” An original story with original illustrations created by him, he anticipates the book to be in libraries and schools, nationally. Koffi was previously involved in music and film, however, these days, most of his time goes to painting. Next year he plans to do “Africa Masterpieces” to showcase the inspiration that African art provides.
When asked about the process to create his paintings, Koffi mentioned, “Artwork can take several days, sometimes weeks.” He says a lot of people buy his art and he sells it in galleries. “Art is a way of communicating…art will never die, we know people through their art.”
Koffi has three other books he is developing for small kids of African American, Native American, and Mexican American decent. The books are titled, “Bud Children’s Adventure” to help small children with their self esteem, teach them to love others, and connect them to their culture. In Koffi’s words, “we want to let people know about Africa and access our values while living in the U.S.”
Go to www.flickr.com/photos/koffimbai for more information on Koffi Mbairamadji. The next Africa Global Roots event will be Friday July 25, 2008. We anticipate that Koffi will be a featured artist in this show. The time and location of the next African Global Roots event is currently being determined.