As part of its newly launched Spring/Summer 2020 collection, Daily Paper commissioned Ghanaian visual artist David Alabo to create a limited-edition capsule collection. Alabo primarily used three-dimensional abstract works, photography, and mixed media pieces to create the art, which is featured on a series of five T-shirts.
Each shirt highlights an Afro-Surrealism tarot card. Alabo’s goal with this project? To showcase and critique African society through the lens of the “strange and fantastical.”
“[I was excited by] the opportunity to create a collection that explored African identity through the symbolism of tarot cards,” Alabo tells Bustle. “The chance to fabricate a new universe with its own rules, characters, and motifs whilst still paying respect to the original source of inspiration is incredibly exciting. It is in the nature of a surrealist to subvert the familiar and shift perspective to discover new insights.”
In the late 18th century, some tarot packs began to be used as a trend for divination: Think tarot card reading, fortune telling, astrology, alchemy, and natural magic purposes.
“These tarot card games were never played in African countries,” explains Jefferson Osei, Daily Paper co-founder. “However the people in Africa — especially those who practice traditional African religions with natural magic as base — have similarities in beliefs as the people who use tarot cards for fortune telling and natural magic purposes. Hence the Afrofuturistic approach toward the graphics made by David.”
Through the T-shirts, Alabo says he’s exploring the concept of individual strength, especially in a time of solitude. It’s a sentiment that feels incredibly relevant.
“Most of the subjects in this body of work are isolated and surrounded by desolate landscapes, yet they acknowledge their struggles and fight to overcome them,” Alabo explains. “These pieces were made long before the reality of quarantine, and hopefully the many that are alone right now can connect with that message.”
Alabo’s Ghanaian heritage plays a key role in his art, and it’s most evident when you examine his use of color and pattern.
“The color palettes I use in my work are a direct reflection of the vibrancy found here in Ghana,” he shares. “The bold and saturated colors in the street art of barbershops and lotto kiosks are just examples of where I draw my inspiration from. I live next to the beach, so you can almost always find me staring at the horizon, which I consider a prominent motif in my works.”
With most of the world in isolation right now, Alabo says he’s managing to find inspiration amid all the uncertainty.
“I’m tapping into the collective consciousness and channeling the angst, uncertainty, and paranoia we all are experiencing during these strange times into my current body of work,” he shares. “My artistic process, much like many other artists, is done in complete isolation, so not much has changed in terms of process. It has more to do with holding up a mirror to society and asking questions of ourselves and who we are in the face of a global pandemic.”