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Ghana‘s contemporary artists are some of the most remarkable creatives all over the world. El Anatsui’s discarded foil bottle-neck wrappers and copper wire composed Earth Developing More Roots sculpture estimated at the whooping 650,000 — 850,000 GBP at Sotheby’s presently speaks volumes, though I would rather focus this piece on the younger Ghana-based generation.
In a global environment that is culturally diverse, technologically progressive, and multifaceted, it is important to take note of local artists. Ghana boasts hundreds of prolific talents who use unique methods. In no particular order, we take a look at 10 top creators and their art:
Born in 1987 and based in Tamale, Ibrahim Mahama conceives large-scale installations. He likes to use old jute sacks, which were previously used to transport cocoa beans and charcoal, stitching them together and draping them over architectural units. His most recent piece is a monumental sculpture of stacked ‘shoeshine’ boxes, pointing to the recurring themes of national decay and collapse. The artist’s work was included in the 2015 Venice Biennale. Mahama explains that the hope is that objects’ ‘residues – stained, broken and abandoned, but bearing light – might lead us into new possibilities and spaces beyond.’
Paa Joe is a maker of uncanny palanquins and fantasy coffins. He was born in Accra in 1947, and began his career in the workshop of Ghana’s first fantasy coffin fabricator, Kane Kwei. Paa Joe started his own set-up in 1976 and trained several artists. His fantasy coffins are in the collections of many art museums worldwide, and he has had his work shown in parts of Europe, Japan and the USA. Many books and films, like Paa Joe & the Lion, have been made in tribute to his art.
Serge Attukwei Clottey, born in 1985 in Accra, is known for his plastic patchwork installations, performance, charcoal portraits, photography and sculpture. The artist interrogates personal and family narratives, as well as collective histories, and maps consumerism to trade and migration. With bold assemblages of cut or whole yellow gallon containers, he comments on modern Africa. He is the founder of Ghana’s GoLokal performance collective, which aims to transform society through art.
Social dissipation and commodification of all things African spark inquiries conceptualized through “West African traditions, spirituality, the thread of family lineage as they relate to self authorship and the politics of hybrid identity” in Zohra Opoku’s work. She is a German/Ghanaian multidisciplinary artist living and working in Accra using textiles, design, installation, sculpture and photography. Her work has been exhibited in Capetown, Lagos and Hamburg, among other places.
Adjo’s work debates gender roles and tags in her environment. Through visual metaphors and puns she disturbs disconcerting entities. Her work entitled The Portrait Series was exhibited as part of Voyage of (Re)Discovery at Nubuke Foundation and Ussher Fort- James Town, Accra.
Through travel, Latifah Idriss has documented the diverse commercial, domestic and hybrid uses of kiosks in Ghana, using her discoveries to project blueprints for the kiosks of the future. She incorporates architecture and art in her process and believes that architecture and sculpture are equipollent configurations which avail form for the environment to meet people’s demands. She is at the moment an architecture student and interns in a few art exhibition spaces in Accra.
Bright Ackwerh uses painting, illustration and street art to create solid satirical statements. He was the 2016 recipient of Ghana’s Kuenyehia Prize. The artist is a believer of administering art to conceptualize possibilities, forecast future happenings, and engage society in the moment with blunt colourful counter-narratives, as opposed to the media misrepresentations. His work has addressed illegal mining, police brutality, neo-colonialism, political malpractices and the deadlock that makes it difficult or unreasonably pricey for artists from Africa to collaborate with their counterparts from other continents.
Bernard Akoi-Jackson is an artist and writer indulging in a continually dynamic process through “ephemeral, make-shift memorials and performative rituals of the mundane.” He employs dance, poetry, installation, photography and video to navigate personal and collective history. He is currently a PhD candidate at the Department of Painting and Sculpture, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. His work has been presented in Ghana, the Netherlands, South Africa, India, Nigeria, Portugal and Germany .
Ama Diaka is a poet, writer, designer, performer, illustrator and a hodgepodge of creative potential. “My aim is to be useful to my community and the people around me,” Ama has stated, “either as a mouthpiece for issues and topics that need to be discussed, or as a link to connect problems with solutions.” Her work speaks to feminism, inequality and mental health. She has participated in a Femrite workshop, Farfina Trust Residency and 1beat’s project. She leads educational programmes for youth with the nonprofit LoveRocks.
Kwame Akoto-Bamfo’s installation of 1,200 concrete heads, called Faux-Reedom, depicts Ghana’s reticent ancestral echoes. The work was unveiled at the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum on Ghana’s 60th Independence Day in March 2017. The inquisition is stemmed on the reality of continuation, perseverance and reverberation in an Africa(with focus on Ghana) where independence from colonial rule accommodates underdevelopment across board. Kwame as well specializes in fusing digital arts of graphical painting, 3D modeling and visualization, with traditional media. When he is not creating in the studio, he spends time lecturing at various tertiary institutions.