Bottle Tops: The Art and Life of El Anatsui

Bottle Tops: The Art and Life of El Anatsui
Age Range
Release Date
May 27, 2022
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The inspiring biography of Ghanaian artist El Anatsui whose handmade sculptures, created from discarded bottle tops, have received international acclaim and been showcased around the world.​

If you touch something, you leave a charge on it and anybody else touching it connects with you, in a way. -- El Anatsui
El Anatsui has always written his own story. As an art student at the University of Ghana, El noticed that the artists and styles he was studying were grounded in European traditions. Curious about his own culture's art history, El observed his people and found stories in the fabrics they wore and the way they used recycled goods. He decided to tell these stories through his artwork.

El experimented with different mediums--firing broken clay into new pots and cutting wood into sculptures using a chainsaw. Each time El tried something new, he brought with him the experience of all the experiments he did before. After coming across a discarded bag of shimmering bottle tops, El wondered What was their story? He experimented with the new material--disassembling, flattening, and reshaping--then stitched the tops together with wire. The result were large, flowing tapestries that tell stories about history, culture, and link people together. Today, El's bottle top sculptures are showcased all over the world inspiring audiences everywhere.

Here is the captivating story of a Ghanaian sculptor whose passion, creativity, and awe-inspiring artwork reminds us that creating powerful art is about being true to yourself.

Editor review

1 review
Interesting Ghanaian Art
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Learning Value
El Anatsui is an artist from Ghana who was captivated by art from a young age. After his country was liberated from the British in 1957, he went to art school with a feeling that he could break boundaries and didn't have to adhere only to the Western art concepts he studied. Inspired by Ghanaian art forms he saw at the National Cultural Centre, he set out to make art that connected people to the history of the country. He moved to Nigeria to teach, and started to experiment with different forms, including found objects. After finding a large collection of bottle tops, he created the artwork for which he is best known.
Good Points
Zunon's brightly colored paper collage and paint illustrations capture the folk art aspects of Anatsui's work. The illustrations are clear and show a lot of good detail, especially of how the bottle caps are disassembled and made into a sort of tapestry. The text gives us a good look into a modern artist from an interesting part of the world.

There are no shortage of books about artists, from famous figures written about in Art Is Everywhere: A Book About Andy Warhol by Jeff Mack or Portrait of an Artist: Georgia O'Keeffe by Lucy Brownridge to books about folk artists who might be less well known, like Henry Ossawa Tanner: His Boyhood Dream Comes True by Faith Ringgold or Aminah’s World by Genshaft. Art classes in particular will enjoy this lok at Anatsui's use of found materials to make artwork, and might be motivated to try to duplicate his style in class!
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