Human Currency

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Photo Credit: Amanda Tipton Photography

Jasmine Abena Colgan


Opening Reception: July 18th, 2020

On Exhibition: July 18th – August 29th, 2020

Artist Talk: August 15th, 2020

Limited 10 Visitors for 45 minute appointments on opening night.

PLEASE NOTE – We require a face mask for entry into the gallery.

Gallery Hours: Wed-Sunday 10am-6pm

Artist Statement:

Human Currency is a collection of works that confronts institutional racism in the representation of the cowrie seashell. Each piece addresses a contemporary issue that signifies deep rooted historical practices of slavery, racism, fertility, womanhood, birth, and wealth. The cowrie shell is the symbol of life; Jasmine Abena Colgan uses the shell to share her belief that through womanhood, we will develop the change in the world that is needed today. A simplistic form portrays a beautiful depiction as a metaphor, which is vocalized through the African perspective in artistic material.

“The exploration of my culture has influenced my identity to be expressed from life conflicts, as a multi-cultured woman with American nationality, appearance of Black American, but heritage of Irish and Ghanaian. There has always been the constant battle of deciphering where I fit in as a mixed individual. This body of work is shared not only from the lens, but the intellect of a African-American, Fante-Ghanaian, Irish-American, and Black & White woman.

My artwork has developed through the use of natural and found materials; they reference pigmentation, slavery, labor, tribal and bi-nationality. I mold metaphorical structures that represent the similarities between history and culture brought into contemporary conversation. I have developed my understanding of what ​it​ means to be a woman of colors. By painting a mask of makeup, I am embracing my skin condition and expressing the persona of a ​halfrican​.”

– Jasmine Abena Colgan

10% of proceeds from your purchase will be donated to a non-governmental organization in Ghana through Tough Skin. A virtual card will be sent, and your name will be added and shared with the international community.


Jasmine Abena Colgan is an Ameri-Ghanaian artist, educator, scholar, entrepreneur and social activist who was born in Colorado. Colgan will complete her masters in Fine Arts from the University of Colorado Boulder in Spring of 2020. Jazz is a master printer with 19th century, historical photographic printing processes including; platinum & palladium, silver and gold.

In 2019, Colgan was a NEST fellow and collaborated with a Ph.D. Candidate in chemistry to successfully develop the Ghanatype; a gold printing method using raw material from Obuasi (Obuasi mine initiated the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade). Her artwork is inspired from the contemporary diaspora of mixed culture in the social world; a woman who is black and white, Irish and Ghanaian, African-American, but declares herself a part of the vitilgan race and a woman of colors.

In 2017, Jazz was awarded the “Face of Vitiligo” at a world conference, highlighting her successful social empowerment while conducting field research for her non-profit organization, Tough Skin. She has been featured in publications such as PEOPLE magazine, was associated with TEDXMileHigh for Wonder: Women in Art Experience. Colgan has developed international relationships with several diverse communities and recently established Tough Skin into an enterprise that sources Shea Butter from Ghana to handcraft protective, organic skincare products.

IG: @the.spotted.zelephant


Available Works

Cowrie asa asa cotton twill and ink jet 44” x 40” A cowrie shell was photographed and printed in platinum and palladium photographic solution onto cotton paper. Each image is portrayed in a saturated monochromatic tile which narrates artistic rituals and cultural traditions. The prints were scanned and then printed onto a cotton fabric. The documented shell is collaged into an ‘asa asa’ and this tradition migrated over the Atlantic Ocean into what is called a quilt. $300 each
Cowrie asa asa cotton twill and ink jet 44” x 40” A cowrie shell was photographed and printed in platinum and palladium photographic solution onto cotton paper. Each image is portrayed in a saturated monochromatic tile which narrates artistic rituals and cultural traditions. The prints were scanned and then printed onto a cotton fabric. The documented shell is collaged into an ‘asa asa’ and this tradition migrated over the Atlantic Ocean into what is called a quilt. $300 each
Gold Cowrie Shells GhanaType photographic solution; raw gold and 100% cotton paper 5×7 Each sheet of cotton represents the skin of a human being. The blank sheet is marked with graphite which registers where color is allotted, and then a light sensitive solution is applied onto the surface and exposed to sunlight. After the sun exposure, the print is washed in a series of salt baths which removes any residual contents. The gold is displayed in a variety of colors ranging from yellow, blue and red. The gold was used to print the cowrie shell as a representation of materiality living longer than the human body. $600 each
Ghanatype Printing with Pure Gold, copy of original book with pages from the original. The GhanaType photographic solution is an experimental liquid that developed from a collaborative project with chemist, Marissa Martinez. The book is a study of an article written by Mike Ware who recreated the Chrysotype from William Herschel. $30 open edition / $150 limited edition- 13 copies (available for pre-order)
One Human’s Worth 6,370 cowrie shells and a burlap sack During the Atlantic Slave Trade, humans were trafficked and traded as one of the most valuable commodities to this day. When colonizers discovered that transactions were cheaper than exchanging muskets and metals for enslaved people, they began shipping cowrie seashells from Europe to Africa. According to National Geographic, “Each person bought for $100… was now worth $1000, and once acclimated could be sold for $2,000, or $60,000 in today’s dollars”. (Feb. ‘20, pg. 58) Although, currency was exchanged in a shell format, and this monetary system determined how much any African person was worth for exchange. The cost of a person fluctuates depending on the size and physical presentation of each individual. Even though the shells do not originate from Africa, they have been associated with African culture because of the historical weight. $60,000
Nana Kofi Bonnzie Nana is a title that is given to a male with high respect. He was born on a Friday and his family founded the village, Winneba in Ghana. His ancestors grounded the land and moved the colonizer away from their Earth, they prayed to the Gods that the oppressor would not take their homes. The water from the ocean raised high and washed the British out of Ghana. Men, it is time to take a step down. As we have watched the level of hierarchy fluctuate throughout the centuries, there needs to be a revolution. Let us take the reigns for a while and do something with the world. $12,500
Naa N’ku Müna’s Naa is a title that is given to a female with high respect. Her skin was said to have been soft because of the creamy N’ku (shea butter) she would apply to her skin. She was a woman of desire, belief and wish – her history has influenced our culture today. Her ancestors fought a great battle to end the slave trade. The seat of her throne holds the cowrie shell, it is said that she had four children of her own and was a mother to all children in the village. Locals still visit the site she was buried. Women, it is time to take a stand. We were leaders in our past to the point where we even made the colonizers fear us, this is why they took our power. We create life, we nurture, and have voiced our spiritual beliefs. We are the future, we will change the world. $12,500
Vanity make up cloths with brown make up, assorted seashells, light up vanity with light bulb, sprinkled with broken cowrie shell dust. Makeup cloths are destroying the ocean as our skin absorbs the chemicals that are mixed together to remove more chemicals from the face. The broken shell fragments are pieces that have broken throughout the creation of Human Currency. The light leads the viewer to look harder at what our bodies become after we are all granted a death that is promised. $1,250
Blood Shed Noose, cowrie shells, black paint, calabash, cotton fabric and cotton. This weapon was functional at one point. Until the addition of each shell from each death due to police brutality and supremacy actions, the noose was not able to function from the high number of shells. The rope is floating above a cotton sheet and a libation will be poured to honor the deaths of the souls lost in the world. A libation will be poured to symbolize the blood that was shed and honor the lost souls from violent acts of racism. $2500
Fabric of Our Lives 100% authentic cotton (handpicked from Walmart), burlap. A cotton apron expressing the labor in American workplaces and the strenuous hustle to fabricate a fashionable aesthetic. The cotton is painful, but the skirt looks good. $1,300
Hard ‘ER’ acrylic and make-up The ‘N’ word derives from the Spanish word négrè which translates into ‘black’. This derogatory, six letter word dates back to the 15th century and has made a cultural shift within the centuries, varigating from the French, Portuguese and eventually the transition into the English translation, Nigger. However, the word is deeper than the color of our skin. The ‘N’ word was the descriptive name that defined a low level of hierarchy for enslaved people, who were comparable to livestock; owned as property with human characteristics, bred to fulfill a lifetime of servitude. Colonizers would travel from Europe to the motherland and steal people from their homes before they were brutalized in a ‘civilized’ manner as the ships arrived to the New World. $500