In the outskirts of Accra down a little lane of white houses and palm trees lies Larry’s studio. It’s just a room on the left side of his house, crowded with easels, flecked brushes, and jars of imported paint. Grand and colorful paintings line the walls and overlap each other. There are figure paintings, jazzy musician scenes, and then the works Larry is known for: layers and layers of rainbow colored akwaaba fertility dolls and other adinkra symbols. The closer you look, the more you see: the shape of a bird, a woman’s face, a new line of symbols.
Larry is known for his vibrant use of color, though recently he has been experimenting with black and white. I love his brighter pieces, but I am also taken by his all-gray canvases embellished with a single shade of gold.
The first time I visited his studio, I was sitting on his couch flipping through his old photographs, when he approached me with a little plate of cheese crackers and a green bottle of Alvaro pear soda. That evening, Larry walked me back to the tro-tro station, but it wasn’t the last time we would see each other. He would call every once in a while to see how I was, and I started to consider him a friend. Before I left Ghana, I went back to his studio one last time bearing lik-lak’s, a chocolate drink that comes in a sachet, to make up for my lateness (Ghana traffic…).
The Tuesday morning that I left, I was at Kotoka International airport washing my hands in the bathroom, when I heard the “doo-doo-doo” of my cheap cell phone. It was Larry, calling to say goodbye.
After I hung up, I left the bathroom and headed over to my terminal. There I saw a display of familiar-looking bright paintings. I went over to look at the plaque: Larry Otoo.