Stefan Eisenhofer

Joe Big-Big. Dribblings. 2004. Wire. 30 x 34 x 36 cm (Copyright Museum Fünf Kontinente Munich)

"It is time that artists use their talents to help the world." Joe Big-Big

Joe Big-Big (Adjzobah Ghattaba) was born in Bawku, in Ghana, in 1961 and following a five-year training at the College of Art in Kumasi and several exhibitions in Africa and Europe, he settled in France in 1998. Today he lives and works in Mitry-Mory, near Paris.


This contribution is part of the series "Roots and Routes – Diaspora Artists from Ghana" by Stefan Eisenhofer from 2009.
  • Stefan Eisenhofer
    Stefan Eisenhofer

    His artistic production is informed by the basic concepts of "love", "peace" and "liberty", and he expressly hopes that his works will help to create a better future.


    Since 1996, after twenty-five years of working with clay, plaster, stone, cement and wood, Joe Big-Big has mainly used wire, iron nets and barbed wire to produce works with a very characteristic signature. Through the use of metal nets, he produces an effect of lightness and dynamism, even in sculptures several metres high. It was his fondness for big and high sculptures that earned him the nickname Big-Big.


    Through his choice of materials he reveals the preoccupations that inform his work: he believes that people are free to decide whether they want to produce or destroy something, to encourage or suppress. In Joe Big-Big's work, wire and barbed wire, commonly symbols of oppression, captivity and division, represent the overcoming of bondage: they stand for prevention and protection. Joe Big-Big plays here with the notion of wire as an everyday material that normally goes unheeded, but which can become an instrument of human creativeness and global understanding through artistic activity. However, in Joe Big-Big's work this metal material seldom loses its ambivalence – for it is also a symbol of human labour and human toil. The artist makes use of these associations in works showing toiling people.


    Joe Big-Big is intensely interested in the iconology of his metal materials and the objects he integrates into his works. Padlocks, for instance, symbolize the difficulties we get ourselves into, while keys stand for solving problems, freedom, peace and happiness. Coins represent the money we need to live, and clocks or watches are references to the time we need for solving our problems on the way to a carefree future. The metal materials thus symbolize wealth, strength and power. The artist also deliberately combines old with new metals, as a reminder that one needs to remember the old in order to be able to cope with the present and the future.


    The themes taken up by Joe Big-Big come from nearly all areas of human life. His works are concerned with very personal issues as well as with political topics, such as war, poverty, flight, displacement, or the equality of women. He believes that his images speak louder than words, and he intends them to arouse emotions in the viewer, for "art without emotion, feeling or meaning is like a voice or a noise without meaning".