Yajim Amadu, a graduate of the Columbus College of Art & Design, has four sculptures called “Inspiring Change in Perception About Disability” on display at the King Arts Complex.
When he was growing up in Ghana, Yajim Amadu was horrified by the killing of “spirit children,” babies born with disabilities who were believed to cause misfortune and were subsequently poisoned.
Though such killings were outlawed in 2003, the ancient tradition is still practiced in parts of the country, he said.
Amadu, 41, who graduated from the Columbus College of Art & Design in May with a masters of fine arts in sculpture, has made championing people with disabilities the central theme of his art. His four-sculpture exhibit, “Inspiring Change in Perception About Disability,” is part of the annual juried exhibit “M(art)in Unites,” sponsored by Blick Arts Supplies and on view through Feb. 22 at the King Arts Complex.
Amadu, who came to the United States in 2017, used found materials and sculpted blue foam to fashion one small sculpture and three life-size figures of real Africans — two of whom he met — who are functioning well despite their disabilities.
A Ghanaian whose nickname is “Big Man” is shown climbing a ladder to repair the roof of his house despite his deformed, weak legs.
“He has a wife and three kids and has been able to take care of his family,” Amadu said.
A Kenyan woman, who was born without arms, is seated, using her toes to stir the pot of food at her feet while she breastfeeds a baby.
Then there is a boy from Ghana who Amadu read about. He was born with one leg was going to be killed by his father until his mother intervened. She carried the boy to school on her back until he became too big.
When an American missionary took the boy’s story to a California foundation, it sent him a bicycle that allowed the boy to continue his education — and eventually ride hundreds of miles to call attention to the plight of the disabled in Ghana. Now in his 40s, Emmanuel Ofusu Yaboah has worked internationally to raise funds, Amadu said.
“I became inspired by him,” Amadu said.
He assembled his sculpture of the boy on the bike using streetlight cases for the body, metal pieces for the arms and leg, automotive exhaust parts for the head and a stainless steel bowl for the helmet — all mounted on an old bicycle.
The small sculpture in the exhibit is a motorized wheelchair made from discarded objects, including paint can lids and copper wire. As the wheels of the chair whirl, a sculpted boy — who represents children in rural Ghana — stands below the out-of-reach vehicle that would improve his life.
Amadu, who works as a sculptor and stonecutter for the Columbus Art Memorial Company, said that he has been haunted by the “spirit children” killing practice in Ghana and wants to continue to portray the challenges and successes of people with disabilities in his work.
“It’s my passion,” he said.