Brazilian artist Mariana San Martin creates works inspired by the Adinkra symbols of Ghana in her latest series. We learn more about what sparked the ongoing theme and how she uses copper as a prime material.
"Art is a way of telling the stories I find," says Rio-based artist Mariana San Martin. "Materials are very important to me because the process of making also tells a story."
San Martin approaches her art in a unique way, combining identity with her hunt for objects. Her latest series, Amuletos Collection, evokes the tales and traditions of the Ashanti people who form part of the Akan community from western Africa.
In this selection of images, San Martin unpicks the meaning of Adinkras, an amulet symbol created by the Ashanti that carries its people's wisdom and collective values. Traditionally, the Adinkras would be used in farewell ceremonies, where they would then be distributed around the world once they had been bestowed with intentions.
San Martin decided to overlay stitched copper into her portraits of various Ashanti members and legendary figures – as a nod to her reading around amulets and to relay their mythical properties with her artistic mastery.
Because copper is a conductive metal, San Martin believes it was likely one of the first metals used intentionally by humans. So, she thinks this metal has passed through the history of the Ashanti people and their ancestry. San Martin wants to pay tribute to how symbolic storytelling has been preserved throughout time and hopes that her artworks allow these stories to continue to be passed on through generations.
Each amulet stitched into the image represents the knowledge learned from the past and reflects good fortune for future generations.
San Martin is inspired by her quest to understand humanity through different cultures, and her artwork process is very much guided by her intuition: "I use whatever I stumble on as the artwork progresses. I'm constantly reminded to be open to discovery and to let the process unfold. It usually takes me to very inspiring places."
Her interest in immersing herself in different cultures translates into her artwork, where she is keen to explore the common ground between human beliefs, folklore, fashion, language, spirituality and ethics across borders.
"When researching, I often find myself down rabbit holes where one thing leads to another, and the beauty, for me, is discovering where most of our cultures relate," she says. "Our essence is the same, but what changes is the story and how it's told. It is in these individual stories that our sense of self and richness resides."
Though this collection refers more specifically to the Ashanti community, it comments on how identities are individually different yet collectively connected.