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Ghana: Recognizing The Social And Economic Impact Of Art In The Celebration Of Independence

As Ghana celebrates its 59th year as the first independent African nation below the Sahara, the burgeoning homegrown galleries, artists and curators are redefining its future in telling the story of the nation through art

As Ghana celebrates its 59th year as the first independent African nation below the Sahara, the burgeoning homegrown galleries, artists and curators are redefining its future in telling the story of the nation through art and its social and economic impact. For the 2016 annual Ghana Culture Day Celebration, taking place on March 14th at the National Theater, the Ghana Culture Forum in its push to work with the Tourism Board to recognize and showcase the impact of art and culture, have themed the event: Ghana Culture On The Move: The Economic Impact of Arts and Culture on National Development.

As Dr. Kwame Nkrumah said in 1966: “In the future as the world of Africa and the West mate more and more into the totality of world culture, the creative strength of the African personality, which is evident in tribal sculpture, will contribute far more profoundly to human fulfillment than can yet be imagined.” Nkrumah’s government firmly established the African personality and consciousness in telling the independent story of a nation through the creation, proliferation and dissemination of arts and culture both locally and globally. They were viewed as an integral tool in developing and establishing a newly independent Ghana’s contribution to the world.

“Ever Young” Studio, Jamestown, Accra, Ghana Circa 1950's / First Colour Prints in Ghana By James Barnor (Circa 1970's)  :  Courtesy of James Barnor

“Ever Young” Studio, Jamestown, Accra, Ghana Circa 1950’s / First Colour Prints in Ghana By James Barnor (Circa 1970’s) : Courtesy of James Barnor

From visual and performing arts, to sculpture and photography, the Black Star Nation is experiencing a new art renaissance that defies the idea that African artists must leave Africa for global recognition and to attain commercial sale of their art. Gallery 1957, located in the newly built 5 star Kempinski Hotel in Gold Coast City-Accra, founded by British born Lebanese construction boss and art collector, Marwan Zakhem, will specialize in cutting-edge contemporary African art with an aim to foster a new growth of local art collectors in recognition of the value of African art collecting as a means of appreciated investment that can also build and further develop the local economy in Ghana.

While Photographers like James Barnor, led the way in the early 1950’s with his historic Jamestown photo studio “Ever Young”, and is now at the age of 86 finally gaining international recognition from collectors, museums and galleries for his retro-photography that spans the period of Ghana pre and post-independence, there are new shining stars in photography like Nana Kofi Acquah, who opened a successful exhibition entitled “Don’t Call Me Beautiful” at Alliance Française (February 2nd – March 9th), who took it upon himself to change the pricing of his photos in order to make it accessible for Ghanaians/Africans to be able to become collectors of his work.

Don't call me Beautiful exhbition.

On February 6th Nana Kofi Acquah posted on his instagram account @AFRICASHOWBOY :
“Today, I took the crazy decision to cut the prices of the prints I’m exhibiting now in Accra. The turn out at the launch event was mind blowing but I had too many people corner me and ask if they could get a discount? Today, I asked myself, “what do you want the most: to be rich or to make impact? I’ve decided that I would want my work on as many African walls as possible. I want African children, growing up, raise their heads everyday to see a positive image on their walls. I would want them to know they’re just as good as everyone else and better than most in most things. I want my work to give them truth nothing else can take away from them. I never became a photographer to be rich. I wanted the world to hear another voice. I choose to make impact.

While artists are recognizing their impact on the storytelling of Ghana’s history- past, present and future, there is no denying the importance of having more African curators to bring these stories together both nationally and internationally. Curator, writer, art historian, and filmmaker, Nana Oforiatta Ayim is one of the newest pioneers, who left a successful career in Europe to move to Ghana to establish “ANO”- a cultural research center which aims to challenge current historiographies, as well as transform social contexts through publications, research and films, while developing artists in Ghana and giving them opportunities to attain residencies around the world with their art. Nana has been appointed as the curator of Gallery 1957 to continue her mission in making Africans and the world recognize the importance and potential in the social and economic impact of art in Africa and its global contribution past, present and future.

"My Mother's Wardrobe" by Serge Attukwei Clottey -Courtesy of Gallery 1957

“My Mother’s Wardrobe” by Serge Attukwei Clottey -Courtesy of Gallery 1957

According to Nana Oforiatta-Ayim , “The art scene in Accra is already very vibrant, there’s FCA, Nubuke, Accra dot alt, I also run a cultural organization called ANO. The gallery is another addition, and one that actually fosters sustainability and longevity, which is something we don’t have. For every exhibition I do at Gallery 1957, I’ll do one in a public space, and a research one at ANO, which will engage more deeply with the themes brought up in each exhibition, this is something I insisted on from the beginning to avoid the narrow confines of exclusivity, and reach as many different layers as possible. I think Ghana’s art scene will deepen and expand. I think culture will play a bigger and bigger part of our economic and social norms. I think it will transform the way we see and think about ourselves, and therefore how we engage with ourselves, each other, and the outside world, and that this will have repercussions on our material world too.”

Aretha Amma Sarfo-Kantanka AKA the Global Fusionist lives by the motto “Eat Well, Travel Often”. Her love for travel, global cuisine, storytelling, culture, history and her Black Star Nation pride led her to create Global Fusion Productions Inc., a global branding company specializing in bringing Africa to the world and the world to Africa in #OurGlobalFusion from Root To Fruit! The New Pan-Africanism is Our Global Fusion!
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