For El Anatsui, highly localized space and place is less significant to his self-exploration than materiality. In the last decade, Anatsui has become known for his undulating, massive forms that utilize the malleable and expressive nature of recycled metal. Anatsui transcends national boundaries--though he was born and raised in Ghana, he teaches and works in Nigeria, and his work is widely collected and exhibited across the world.
Created of aluminum bottle tops wired together, Hovor, which means "Cloth of Value" in Anatsui's native Ewe language, is one of the early works that used this signature language of material and form. His work resists simple categorization—called wall sculpture, wall hangings, metal canvases, and metal cloths, his work vibrates between object, architecture, and art. On one level, the dense spatial fields of his works trace and complicate history of artistic production in Africa. Anatsui employs a studio of 20 local Nigerian artists in Nsukka to pound and attach the bottle caps, a process reminiscent of a technique used by historical Ghanaian artists to flatten and reshape gold objects. On a larger scale, his repurpose of castoff material recounts colonial and postcolonial economic and cultural exchange on the continent.