Meet Derrick Ofosu Boateng: Wave making Ghanaian photographer – Toni Kan

...Apostle of Heuism

Derrick Ofosu Boateng is possessed of a disarming and boyish enthusiasm; his smile is sincere and his laugh is jolly. He is witty with a self-effacing and self-deprecating demeanor.
When he is asked about his collaboration with the late Virgil Abloh, he says it was via a direct message on Instagram.
“Virgil Abloh said my work was ‘very immaculate’. I didn’t even know what immaculate was, so I picked up my phone and checked the meaning on Google.”

Ghana-man in London

He is being interviewed at a breakfast meeting in Camden town, London. His interlocutor is Katie Heller, Head of Art at the House of Koko and their conversation is happening courtesy of MTArt Agency on the sidelines of Photo London fair where Derrick’s work has captured the imagination of the art world, art enthusiasts, and dilettantes.
Mr. Boateng styles himself as the apostle of Hueism, a photographic style that privileges the black body and subjects presented with/in a burst of bright colours and joy.  The works recall David LaChappele with their colourful palettes and backgrounds even as Boateng describes them as anchored on blackness with pithy proverbs providing context.
“A photograph can be based on one or more proverbs,” he explains before sharing the guiding principle behind one of his works which has incidentally been used as album art for the rapper, Common.
 “This is based on the proverb that says ‘two heads are better than one’ but there is also the proverb that says a human being can be one of three things – he can have courage, or sense or insight.”

The gospel of Heuism

Listening to Derrick Ofosu Boateng talk about his work, one gets the sense of an old soul stuck inside the body of a young man who turns 25 on June 2nd. “I went online, I saw so many isms but I did not see one from Africa. So, I said I will push Heuism,” he explains with a shy laugh.
His shyness and humour are endearing in a young artist who has become the toast of the art world with mentions in major news and art publications, collaborations with Louis Vuitton and shows lined up year round.
“Do you want to talk about the things you have achieved, so far?” Ms. Heller asks but Derrick’s answer is that trademark shy laugh and shake of the head.
“I don’t like to talk about that. I prefer for other people to talk about that.”
His turn at the annual Photo London fair with his gallery, the Homecoming Gallery has been hailed as presenting a joyful expression of Ghanaian culture something he takes seriously. “When you see photos of Africans they are always sad,” he says when I comment on the joyous visages that dot his photographs. “I want to show joy.”

No Cameras please

Boateng’s photographs are shot on his iPhone and he says it takes about one week from initial shot to final product. Bright colours and fabrics are important to his process.
“Colours and fabrics are important to me. At home when I see my mother dress up I can tell where she is going to just from what she is wearing. Black means a funeral; bright wrapper means a wedding or a party, a simple gown means the market.”
The Homecoming Gallery website says “Derrick’s photography of everyday life bursts with joy, energy, and the colors of Ghanaian life. His miniature narratives are inspired by street scenes, and showcase the people, objects, and surroundings that inspire him.”
Mr. Boateng’s career began on instagram where he posted photos of himself modeling colourful outfits before realising that people were more interested in the photographs than his modeling. His success is testament to the growing power of the digital space to build creative careers and superstars.
Will he ever dump the iPhone for the camera? Derrick doesn’t miss a beat before answering the question. “I am producing good work with my phone,” he says with that trademark laugh.
And you can’t help but agree;  why fix it when it ain’t broke?
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