Annie Marie Akussah documents identity, belonging and the authenticity of identification in the context of inter-African migration.
Annie Marie Akussah was born in Accra, Ghana. Using the idea of immigration, the artist grapples with the subject through portraiture, assemblage and prints. The pieces that she creates mostly explore the movement of people from one African state to another.
Documenting your identity.
The documents that are used for this travel through Africa are of particular interest to the artist for how they relate to identity. These documents are ambiguous in nature as they can both assist and prevent your movement depending on your desired destination, your country of origin or your financial status.
Needing a visa for travel triggers the prohibiting of certain people from crossing the borders of a country and, therefore, a tool of exclusion.
Passports have appeared throughout history in several different guises. The Chinese bureaucracy during the Qin Dynasty required detailed documents that established whether the holder was able to travel through points of control and imperial counties.
It was during World War I, however, security precautions in Europe demanded that passport requirements in order to cross a border were put in place. After the war, this system remained in place. At this time British tourists commented on the feeling of dehumanization that was felt as only a document and a photograph would account for your identity as you crossed a border.
We have now found ourselves in a time when microchips are being put in passports. Our movements are tracked even more carefully and it has become even more difficult to forge, fake or manipulate a passport.
Akussah addresses this in her work through the manipulation of documentation. Her understanding of this process is that desperate people who are searching for something better by any means are further impeded from doing so.
Moving through Africa.
While the dominant view of migration that has gripped western media has been that of the movement of people from the Middle East and Africa to Europe and the migration of people from central America to the US, evidence suggests that intra-Africa migration is, infact, more significant.
The migration of Africans from one country on the continent to another, particularly to a neighbouring country, accounts for the majority of African migration, according to the African Development Bank.
Africans move from one state to another as they look for jobs or flee conflict with one reason often relating to another. Refugees appear in countries that are already poor and employment low. Without a work permit or any form of identification, the informal economy is the only option.
This certainly creates a very interesting point of exploration for the artist as refugees from Chad and Niger come to Ghana to flee the conflict in their home countries.
Reliability of identification.
Through the medium that the artist uses, we are confronted with the idea of authenticity when it comes to identity documents. Parts of documents and stamps from passports are recreated but are changed from their original form.
Through the modification of what we recognise to be travel documents and passports, Akussah helps the viewer to further question how these items fail at attempting to codify an individual.
There is also a reflection of the way that the culture of expatriates adapts and changes once they are in a new space. Arriving in a different country creates the strange event of having one’s self, culture and person examined and questioned.
Akussah, through her work, questions the criteria that we use to qualify someone as a citizen or able to belong in a particular state as well as ideas of racism and xenophobia.
The work that the artist has created is a new and impressively complex look at identity and how this related to movement.
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