A few years ago, Ghanaian artist Enam Bosokah was working in a group on a sculpture installation. Due to the restrictions of the project, he soon got bored and felt that his creativity was being underused. That was when he took up drawing with ballpoint pens as an alternative form of expression. He had been drawing with the pen, ‘doodling’ as he called it, since high school, but he hadn’t taken himself or the medium seriously.
Since going professional with the pen three years back, Bosokah has established himself as one of Africa’s best known pen artists. His work, some of which are of famous personalities, abounds on the internet as proof of his artistry. An online search of his name will yield portraits of Bob Marley, Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela and other famous and inspiring black icons; people whose lives he considers exemplary.
So far, he has had three solo exhibitions and one group exhibition. He took part in the group exhibition, the Canvass Culture, in July 2013, at the Movenpick Ambassador Hotel in Accra, while his first solo show, the Ghoe Exhibitions, was held in November 2014 at the Golden Tulip, Kumasi.
When not at work on his personal collection for exhibitions, Bosokah is working on custom orders, for which he charges fees ranging from $375 to $500, according to True African Arts. In any case, he earns thousands of cedis from a piece which takes him about a week to complete, working mostly at night – because of the quiet – from his home in Accra.
“The process begins by picking a pen and paper,” he said. “I often prefer my papers a bit textured. I then make a quick sketch or trace of my reference image and proceed by registering layers of strokes, juxtapositioning the strokes and crosshatching until the white paper is no longer recognizable. Gradually building form by introducing shades and finally finishing up by establishing fine details. My work is ready for framing.”
Bosokah was born on 17 March 1987. He is from the Volta Region of Ghana where he received his elementary and high school education. Bosokah comes from a lineage of artists and has said that he knew from childhood that he could draw. His elementary school teacher noted his talent and encouraged him to carry on with it. It only seemed natural that he study art at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and then take up art professionally.
“I chose the pen because it comes handy and is highly impactful regardless of scale,” he said of his preferred tool, adding that many artists do not favour the pen because of its irreversibility. But he has found it easier to use, much like “adding to the paper”, he said.
Bosokah is yet to name his style of drawing, which incorporates a lot of lines and minute squares. For now, he is still experimenting and believes that he is on a journey of self-discovery. Bosokah is a versatile artist who also works in materials such as clay, synthetic resin and fibre glass. As such, he doesn’t want to categorise himself exclusively as a pen artist so soon. He considers his art as an extension of himself.
“As an up and coming artist still experimenting with different art media, I am hoping to be the next big thing in African art,” he said.
Hopefully, bigger than Jonathan Kwegyir Aggrey of Ghana, Adebanji Alade of Nigeria and Ashley Oubre of the United States of America, whose works he admires. In the meantime, he is open to opportunities to exhibit his work in South Africa, or collaborate with artists from the country.