Ghana’s presidential seats, the panel doors of the entrance of the country’s former legislative assembly and the relief carvings on the Speaker’s parliamentary desk, these are just a few of Kofi Antubam’s works.
A pioneer of the use of adinkra symbols in Ghanaian art, Kofi Antubam was born in 1922. The only known names of his parents are Maame and Nana Mensah.
Losing his father at a very young age, Antubam’s uncle took him to Kumasi to start his education. Kofi Antubam attended Adisadel College and that is where he was encouraged to develop his craft.
Through a clay bust he made for the then governor of the Gold Coast, Antubam obtained a sponsorship to attend Achimota college where he was able to polish his arts and craft talent, with the help of a Russian-born sculptor and art teacher, Herbert Vladimir Meyerowitz.
Upon graduating from the school, he took up teaching and also sold figurative paintings he made to support himself financially.
After successfully bagging another scholarship, Antubam was able to study at the Art School of Goldsmith College in London from 1948 to 1950.
In pursuit of his African Personality concept after independence, Dr Kwame Nkrumah contracted Kofi Antubam to create the country’s three Presidential Seats for the political authority of the new nation.
With the help of some local craftsmen, Kofi Antubam designed and made the seats, a task that took them almost a year to complete.
The three Presidential Seats, according to Jerry Orhin Yorke in a 2017 research publication, are; “The Chair of State (Asipim), Seat of State (Asεsεgua) now referred to as The Presidential Seat and The Vice-president’s Seat (Asipim). These seats and the State Sword (Afena-nta) came into existence as a result of Kwame Nkrumah’s policies on the Ghanaian political culture. It was revealed in the researcher’s findings that, all the politico-culture artefacts created by his cultural policies were Ghanaian and for that matter African.”
Antubam made use of significant adinkra symbols in the designs of all three seats to symbolise the sovereignty of the nation as well as the authority of the president.
The Chair of State, though not used any longer, is still very strong and on display at the National Museum in Accra.
The other two seats are still used by the president and vice president of the country.
Other national regalia designed by Antubam and still in use by the country, include the mace of Parliament, the President Pole and the State sword.
Some of his private works were exhibited in New York by the American Society of African Culture in 1962 and in 1963, he published Ghana’s Heritage of Culture, a book that sheds light on the contributions Ghana has made to world of art.
Kofi Antubam died in 1964.