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Raphael Adjetey Adjei Mayne

Raphael Adjetey Adjei Mayne (*1983, Accra) combines in his multi-layered mixed media works colourful portraits with the rich symbolic world of Ghanaian Adinkra. The Adinkra patterns and symbols are printed onto cotton fabrics, which are often referred to as 'wax prints’. These elaborate motifs represent objects that encapsulate evocative messages conveying traditional wisdom, aspects of life, or the environment. Adinkra symbols also have philosophical aspirations. For instance, the heart (akoma) stands for patience and tolerance, the fern (aya) for perseverance and resourcefulness. Two arrows connected by a circle – 'help me and let me help you' (boa me na me mmoa wo) – stand for cooperation as well as for interdependence.  


In his ongoing Faceless series he omits a detailed rendering of the subject's face. In doing this, Mayne does not intend to anonymise his subject, but rather to direct the observer’s focus towards body language and pose. By reducing the portraits to fundamentals and stripping them back to a flat, almost stylised representation, he attempts to stimulate an important thought process. 'Who is the person in front of me?' 'Is she/he happy, serious, surprised, curious?' 'Can I put myself in the other person's shoes?'. In this way, the artist invites the viewer to think about the subject: 'Not just look at them but look into them.', he explains.


Positioned in the middle of the canvas and often in mere space, the faceless figures confront us without being disrupted by our gaze. It is not a confrontation between the depicted and the viewer, but a friendly approach. 


At times Mayne leans towards political statements. It's possible to read his Green Gloves (Self Portrait) (2021) - in which the gloves in question are boxing gloves - as a response to racism, while his decision to portray public figures, such as the US Secretary of State, Kamala Harris (2021) and the poet, writer and activist Amanda Gorman (2021) seems overtly political. 


Above all, however, the artist is interested, in this selection of works, in the process of synthesis and combination. Formally, his combination of painting and textile collage leads to fascinating juxtapositions, while many of his sitters wear African trousers combined with a typical Western top. Two different pictorial traditions, two socio-cultural materials that the artist fuses together into idiosyncratic and often exuberant new forms.


Raphael Adjetey Adjei Mayne studied painting at the Ghanatta College of Arts and Design. His works are exhibited at international art fairs including AKAA Paris, Investec Cape Town Art Fair, 1-54 African Art Fair New York, Art On Paper New York and Sydney Contemporary. His works are in the MuCEM Collections, in Marseille and in the Harvard University Collection in Cambridge.

Exhibitions at HELDENREIZER 

  • 2022 – I WANT TO BE LIKE YOU WHEN I GROW UP (Solo), Munich

  • 2022 – WHAT ABOUT PAINTING? (Group), Munich

Further Exhibitions (Selection)

  • 2022 – STARGATE TO AFRICA, Chale Wote Street Art Festival, Accra, Ghana

  • 2021 – ASSUMING YOU LOOK LIKE ME, GNYP Gallery, Berlin, Germany


  • 2021 – THE JOY OF MY SKIN, Geukens & De Vil, Antwerp, Belgium

  • 2020 – YOUR SHADOWS, AFIKARIS, Paris, France


  • Born 1984 in Accra, Ghana

  • Lives and works in Ghana and Cologne

  • 2022 La Brea Studio Artists Residency, Los Angeles, USA

Permanent Collections

  • Harvard University, Cambridge, USA

  • ADAC Kunstsammlung, München, Germany

  • MuCEM Collections, Marseille, France 

  • Africa First, Jaffa, Israel

  • Leridon Collection, Paris, France

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