• Elvin Ou

Response to museum trip

Paa Jones: Gates of No Return


After the introduction in class about Accra-based artist and craftsman Paa Joe's figurative coffins, I visited the American Folk Art Museum for his exhibition. I went there with the curiosity about the way he create his own narratives through his sculptural and craft work. When I saw all those miniature castles in the room, the first thing came to my mind was that "okay, they look like architectural mockups in small scale, what is so special about them?"

Approaching the castles, I started trying to find clues on the physical body of the work that illustrates Paa Joe's narrative or meaning behind it. The first reveal of the narrative starts with the various color and the shapes of windows. The seemingly similar appearance of the castles actually share very different architectural details, which indicates the different cultural background each object is designed and created to perform. Besides that I could not really find anything else that tells me more, so I went to check the photo wall and started reading. Additional physical mediums like texts and photos are added to help the physical castles tell the full story, then the story came clear to me about the coffins and slavery. It made me think about how a narrative is constructed and shared for different context/ audience: I think if the objects were shown in the area of where the culture and event happened, the physical castle itself is enough to tell a full story without the help of photos, texts or any other mediums. The other aspect that I realized was the idea that even this whole set of physical sculpture, texts and photos is depicting a full story of Paa Joe's own, it is still part of a bigger narrative, a segment of a bigger body where I assume I will get to know more during the field trip at the African Burial Ground Museum.