Born in 1944 in Anyanko, in the Volta region of Ghana, El Anatsui lived in a mission house up to high school. From 1965 to 1969 he attended the College of Art in what is now called the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology di Kumase. Since 1975 he has taught at the University of Nigeria-Nsukka (UNN) in the Enugu
province, where he also holds the position of Head of the Sculpture Department. He still lives and works in Nsukka, yet maintaining close connections with his native Ghana – whose culture, along with the heritage from various areas of Africa and also Western influences, has provided fertile ground for El Anatsui’s art. He emerged as an artist from the 1960s post-colonial art movements and 1970s west Africa, and debuted with his first solo show in Nigeria in 1976. In 1980, the Artist residency he won at the Cummington Community of the Arts in Massachusetts heightened his sensitivity, and led him to step into an international scene.
The Florence Biennale confers to El Anatsui the Lorenzo il Magnifico Lifetime Achievement Award as a recognition to his fifty-year outstanding contribution to art. By interweaving media, memory, and meaning he has represented the essence of Africa while casting light on the relationship between Humanity and Nature so as to inspire a global audience. Furthermore, through the creative use of materials from discarded objects such as metals and wood, he has masterly shown that “the poverty of materials used in art in no way precludes the telling of rich and wonderful stories”.