El Anatsui was born in Ghana in 1944, and has for many years resided in Nsukka, Nigeria, where he has taught at the University of Nigeria Nsukka since 1974. During this long period of time as a professor, he has profoundly influenced younger generations of artists. Primarily a sculptor, El Anatsui has been well-known in the African art community for decades, especially for his wood sculptures.
El Anatsui [ah-nah-ch-wee] (born 1944) is a Ghanaian sculptor active for much of his career in Nigeria. The youngest of 32 children, El Anatsui lost his mother and was raised by his uncle. He looked for "something that had more relationship to me, as someone growing up in an African country". El Anatsui wanted to "draw connections between consumption, waste, and the environment". As he would say, "Art grows out of each particular situation, and I believe that artists are better off working with whatever their environment throws up". He has drawn particular international attention for his "bottle-top installations". These installations consist of thousands of aluminum pieces sourced from alcohol recycling stations and sewn together with copper wire, which are then transformed into metallic cloth-like wall sculptures. Such materials, while seemingly stiff and sturdy, are actually free and flexible, which often helps with manipulation when installing his sculptures.