As a trans-national graphic designer, Professor Ida Kumoji-Ankrah, chair of the department of art and design at Eastern Kentucky University, ardently believes that art is a universal language.
“It allows people from different cultures to communicate with each other through images, sounds and stories, often used as a vehicle for social change,” she said.
That idea is the inspiration behind her most recent artworks, which Friends of EKU Libraries purchased to display in the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning, a learning space where faculty collaborate on innovative new ways to teach and engage students. The FCT&L is part of the EKU’s Noel Studio for Academic Creativity.
“We were drawn to the energy that the bright colors and complex designs of the artwork bring to the FCT&L,” said Dr. Russell Carpenter, director of the Noel Studio. “The art will be on display for our faculty who use the center, serving as encouragement to be inspiring, creative and innovative across academic activities at EKU.”
Kumoji-Ankrah’s four digital prints are titled “Opulence,” “Precision,” “Skillfulness” and “Prosperity.” The pieces highlight her fascination with culture and the relationship between typography, visual imagery and color, combining Adinkra symbols from her native Ghana stamped on cloth with western alphabet characters. The convergence of Africa and the West in her art is representative of Kumoj-Ankrah herself. While her post-secondary education took place in the U.S., her upbringing in Ghana incubated her creative talents.
“I grew up immersed in a culture rich in artistic traditions, both verbal and non-verbal communication systems, making it a fundamental setting for my educational experience,” she said.
Currently, Kumoji-Ankrah’s work as an educator, designer and researcher explores topics based on cross-cultural design, African textile design, typography, interactive design and African oral and digital storytelling. For her, art and design is a way to understand and unite cultures.
“Design does not exist in isolation; it reflects the larger society,” she said. “Art and design has always created bridges across cultures because the meaning doesn’t change across cultural lines.”
Kumoji-Ankrah’s work has been featured in over 100 juried and invitational exhibitions all over the world, and in public and private collections, such as the Women’s Center at the University of Minnesota, St. Catherine University, and the National Institution of Museum of Tetovo, Macedonia. As an academic, she has been published in books, journals and magazines, and has presented at various academic conferences.
It’s a reminder, Carpenter said, that academic innovation and success, like art, knows no boundaries.
“The pieces create an environment that challenges us to consider the complexities of what we do,” he said. “Faculty who are teaching, learning and collaborating in the space can see the knowledge, passion and research that went into this artwork and gain an understanding of the many forms that our scholarship might take.”