Susuma Sane : Highlighting Ofoe Amegavie and His Journey to Mental Health
(Susuma Sane [ga] :ARTIST TRANSLATION- 'Matters of the Heart')
Ofoe Amegavie is a photographer. If you ever met him, or stumbled upon his instagram page you would qualify this initial assessment by prefixing it with the words, ’Extremely talented.’ But beyond the fact that he is an extremely talented photographer you wouldn’t see much deeper, as is the case with most people .
You wouldn’t see the boy who lost his mother to mental illness 12 years before her actual death. You might completely miss the man that had to grow from this space of unanswered questions and bodiless grief . And you would barely notice the subsequent depression that bloomed from this fertile ground - the struggle to stay afloat - and finally his breakthrough.
But in 2014, whiles still firmly under water, Ofoe used his photography to open up. The first exhibition of an ongoing series, Susuma Sane (Matters of the Heart), was displayed at Alliance Francaise and titled 'Oblivion to Chaos.'
Oblivion To Chaos ...
Introduced us to Ofoe’s mother : a woman he desperately missed but barely knew. Anna Kano suffered from a mental illness that was never officially diagnosed. It started in small ways - her talking to herself - and escalated with the years.
“There were days when she’d leave home just like that, and later on someone would call to say they’d seen her wandering,” Amegavie tells me.
At eleven years old, when her condition seemed unmanageable, Ofoe was sent to stay with his uncle. His mother was sick, his father overwhelmed and nobody was talking about it … to Ofoe. At school, when friends asked why he lived with his uncle, Amegavie would make up reasons, filling the void of unanswered questions with the workings of his own imagination. But imagination can only do so much.
In 2007, twenty-four hours before his 23rd birthday, Anna, his mother, was buried in an unmarked grave. To this day Ofoe doesn’t know its exact location. But her geographically misplaced death would mark the beginning of a steady depression that had long been waiting in the reserves. From 2007 to 2014, he found himself losing interest in everything. He tried asking his estranged father about his mother, details of her life and her ailment, but with so much time passed and so many painful memories intentionally forgotten, Ofoe never got the answers he sought. Haunted by this fact and the missed opportunities to talk to Anna himself, he stopped caring. And like the title of his first exhibition, that obliviousness to his life translated into chaos and destructive behaviour. He was unmotivated and drinking to numb the numbness. At one point , he was offered a fully paid trip to Trinidad. Everything was sorted. All he had to do was show up.
Ofoe got drunk and missed the flight.
Sitting alone at the airport terminal, he tells me,
“I kept asking myself, why am I so destructive?”
But even though he knew he had a problem, it would take Ofoe another three years and change to finally find hope. During that time, he would cut off communication with the world, go broke, flirt with homelessness only to be saved, at the last minute, by friends.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY KOBE SUBRAMANIAM
On 15th September 2017, Amegavie was invited to join the crew of the upcoming film, The Burial of Kojo (by Blitz Bazawule). Set in the western region of Ghana, for four weeks Ofoe got to watch the children of Nzulezu dive into the soil rich waters of the Amanzule lake and resurface, floating on their backs like it was the most natural thing in the world, their ebony skin perfectly complimenting the black waters.
He watched .
And he shot.
He didn’t know where he was going with the pictures, but somehow, he knew it was important to capture their submersion in the deep, their coming up for air, the way they floated and finally their ability to leave the water.
Courage to Love...
Is the second part of the Susuma Sane series. It's the story that was formed after the pictures were taken: When Ofoe flipped through the shots and saw the struggle of his journey in the easy play of the children he captured. This exhibition, a follow up to Oblivion to Chaos, was showcased at Elle Lokko on Sunday 12th November 2017 at 6:30pm. By 6:32pm, Ofoe had sold enough pieces to completely cover the cost of the show. That night, everybody was there: From friends, to family and finally his father, with whom a more honest friendship is beginning to form.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY KOBE SUBRAMANIAM
As far as his mental health, Ofoe tells me he still has some ways to go but now he knows what the end looks like. It’s the relaxed poise of a resting boy on the dock , hands folded behind his head, fully aware that he’s surrounded by the deep waters of life, but unafraid to dive in because he knows he will float.
Will be displayed again this Thursday 16th November 2017, from 5:00 pm at Elle Lokko . Instead of sitting through the drudgery of rush hour traffic, pass through, see the work, meet the artist, and be inspired by his courage to address his Mental Health.