Kuukua talks to Diaspora Digital News about her art trajectory, what it means to be a young female Ghanaian artist, painting for her country’s First Lady, philanthropy, and many more.
Bold, beautiful and brilliant, 23-year-old Kuukua is a true definition of living one’s passion for purpose.
Christened Chantelle Kuukua Eghan, her creative brand name is Kuukua the Artist. Her art specializes in abstract, mix media, landscape and recently portraiture.
From the first day she lightened her colouring book with her crayons, she has never looked back. Surrounded by a family of artistic people, creativity runs through her veins. In addition to initiating an agenda by doing art for social change, her paintings depict a remarkable mastery that sticks in the mind for a long time; but how did it all start for her?
“I discovered my passion for arts when I was very young”, says Kuukua. “At age seven, my mum used to buy colouring books for my sister and I to keep us busy. After school, I spent time colouring even before doing my homework, and then paste them on the walls. My colours and colouring books were my priceless assets, and that is when I knew I had a passion for arts”, she recounts.
Kuukua had no idea that she would pursue arts as a long-term passion and career, as she had plans of becoming a doctor. During her three years education at St Mary’s High School in Accra, she studied visual arts which she enjoyed thoroughly.
“The first year was a learning phase, by second year I was already sweeping awards. In my final year I was adjudged the overall Best Student in Visual Arts. For me it was an easy ride because I loved it and did it whole heartedly”, she adds.
For three years after enrolling at the University of Ghana to pursue a Bachelor’s in Performing Arts, Kuukua had not touched her brush. She however enjoyed visual arts so much that she would occasionally find a drawing book and scribble.
It was during the lockdown 2020, in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic that she officially went back to arts- using Instagram to showcase her work. The feedback was great, people started offering money for her work; and at that point the full time Ghanaian artist was so sure of what she wanted to do going forward.
For Kuukua, the whole journey has progressively been an unending learning process; rewarding her emotionally, financially, and mentally.
“Art has progressed over centuries and decades, and so leaves no room for complacency thinking you are the best in your space. It requires continuous learning and being multi-dimensional. Previously, people will perfect their style and stick to it but now with the emergence of social media and the rest, people are loving arts more. That is why as an artist you need to keep perfecting your style”, she says.
Kuukua’s painting, ‘Efua’ represents the confident Ghanaian woman. She’s the typical African woman who knows she’s beautiful with her natural Afro and dark skin.
Kuukua’s daily activities and personal surroundings drives her thoughts and influences her work. “I draw inspiration from people, nature and colours. Nature gives to ideas, sequences and patterns you didn’t feel existed on a normal day. When coming up with a new collection, I think about how my work will have meaning and be beneficial 10 to 100 years from now”, she says.
What spurs Kuukua to come up with her excellent finishes? This is what she has to say: “I am a very curious person, a proud Ghanaian and very conscious of my surrounding and so, all these including my mood translate into my painting.”
Even though being an artist is rewarding, it has not been without challenges. From financing her art as a business to getting opportunities especially at the start of her career, she has defied them all, and this is evident in the growing value of her work.
However, consistency has been key in her journey and has brought home many rewards. Her works have been exhibited and purchased in Ghana and the diaspora by reputable establishments such as the American Embassy in Ghana. In May 2022, her artworks were showcased at a womanhood-themed exhibition by global skincare company, Dove.
Another highlight of Kuukua’s career came when she was commissioned by a family to paint for Ghana’s First Lady – H.E Rebecca Akufo Addo. She fondly speaks about the painting – “Dawn on the Ocean” during our interview:
“Most of the First Lady’s commissioned pieces I have seen are portraits of her, and so I wanted to do something different and calm – an abstract and landscape that evokes emotion. I’m glad I met her and she loved my work.”
Kuukua’s work mostly focuses on women and their versatility, as the connection is much easier. Her work highlights their skin and hair and so on, and even goes the extra mile to use elements such as 3D hair to make the artwork stand out.
In 2019, she started ‘Art for the Needy’ – to support brilliant but financially handicapped students in Junior High Schools. Her foundation is funded from the money she makes from selling her artwork, and is also open to donations. Other artists have also donated their works to support the cause, and she also a mentor for the students especially in highlighting the need to study visual arts.
’King of Queen (Ohemaa)’, represents the beautiful and well-dressed Ghanaian woman.
‘Ataa’ (soul sisters beyond the skin), represents women of different races and ethnicity who regardless of standards set by society recognize that they are one people. This is depicted by joining of the hair at the tip.
Kuukua believes that governments especially in Africa must show more support and invest in art to make the industry thrive, as art is not a seasonal but everyday venture.
“Regarding the future of arts in Africa and its diaspora, there needs to be a connection, syncing our thoughts and beginning to diversify in order to bridge the gap the hinders opportunity. This will allow us to culturally interact and learn from each other. We can then tell our stories from our own perspective.”
So, what does Kuukua do for leisure or to relax?
“Funny enough it is not painting, but sleep is one; to rejuvenate the mind and go back to work. I love the serenity that comes with water and so, you can also find me at the beach swimming, walking or sipping on a mojito!”
Kuukua’s next collection, ‘Genesis’ is a grand project that will speak about women figures, with abstract figures to complement them, emphasizing different aspects of beauty in what they do. She is very excited about this collection which she started putting together in 2021, and looks forward to its launch at the end of 2022 or in 2023.
Contact Chantelle via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: +23357 100 4432.
By: Theresa R. Fianko
***All images used with full permission of Chantelle Kuukua Eghan.