'Into the Mind of the Coloniser': In Conversation with Adelaide Damoah

On Thursday 28 March, British-Ghanaian artist Adelaide Damoah will present ‘Into the Mind of the Coloniser’, in the Virginia Woolf Room of the Mary Ward House in London. The performance is part of a three-day event organised by Open Space entitled ‘Forum: Of Hosts & Guests’. Throughout the evening, the audience will read aloud with Damoah, reciting passages from nineteenth-century instruction manuals written for colonisers. Slowly, the artist will be cut from her Ghanaian funeral dress, revealing her bare skin painted red like dried blood. She will then coat herself in shea butter and create an imprint of her form upon the manuals – the shadow of the past upon the present.

The somatic focus of Damoah’s practice is interesting given her background in applied biology and expertise in pharmaceutical sales, as well as her history of chronic illness. ‘Into the Mind of the Coloniser’ takes the human body as its focal point in its response to the contemporary discourse on decolonisation. As the site of colonial violence, the body has the power to recall past traumas and heal old wounds; to represent one’s ancestry and anticipate one’s legacy. On the 28thof March, Damoah will ask for our participation. We will bear witness to the present as she pays her respects to the past, and take these lessons into the future.

I sat down with Damoah to learn more about her upcoming performance this Thursday, and to delve more deeply into the many threads that weave through her work. Below are excerpts from our conversation: