Art is easily one of the most incredible ways one can express their thoughts and feelings without voicing out their emotions. Having been in existence for over 40,000 years, art is one of mankind’s precious forms of creativity.
According to research, learning and practising art are equally higher achievements as reading and practicing mathematics. Research has proven that creativity, social development and self-worth are promoted through art.
The world has witnessed so many talented artists since before modernisation. Dominating between the 14th and 20th centuries, the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci, Raffaello Sanzio, Sandro Botticelli, Vincent Van Gogh, Théodore Géricault and more, gifted the world with lifetime breathtaking artworks which were and are still immensely appreciated in recent years.
In as much as the world still appreciates these legends and their artworks, the world is equally appreciating contemporary artists whose works are nothing short of sensational. Contemporary artists creatively bring light and life into their works to battle the mentality of appreciating ‘old’ arts.
Ghana is amongst the few countries known for breeding astounding contemporary artists across Africa. Even though most of them are not quite popular because of their uniqueness which keeps them a little farther from the limelight, their works are heavily inspiring and beyond belief.
In an effort to appreciate contemporary Ghanaian artists who are going beyond the borders of the motherland to express their talents through their works, we will look at six unique artists and their artworks.
The first artist to usher us into this is one of the most recognized Ghanaian Sculptors named El Anatsui. As the youngest child of his father’s 32 children, he was born in Anyako in the Volta Region of Ghana. However, he has lived most of his life as an artist in Nigeria, where he began teaching in 1975 at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and joined the Nsukka Art Group. Anatsui is known for one of his iconic artworks dubbed the ‘bottle-top illustration,’ he has managed to creep away from the African community and penetrate through the global scenes for decades. The Bottle-top Illustration as it’s called, is a unique integration of thousands of pieces of bottle-tops in a large-scale. The 76-year old artist sewed them with copper wire and transformed them into a metallic cloth-like wall sculpture in a way that can demonstrate a correlation between consumption, waste and the environment.
However, most of his works are made up of clay, woods and random objects, and are inspired by traditional Ghanaian beliefs. Anatsui has bagged quite a remarkable number of achievements over the years. In 1990, he was one of three artists singled out in “the 1990 exhibition of Contemporary African Artists: Changing Traditions”, he won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Venice Biennale, the Golden Lion in 2015. He is also the first Ghanaian to win an International Art Prize (2017) at the Praemium Imperiale. Some of his artworks have been exhibited across the world for more than two decades, in places such as Studio Museum, New York (1990), Venice Biennale, Italy (1990 and 2007), the 8th Osaka Sculpture Triennale, Italy (1995), the National Museum of African Art (2001), The Liverpool Biennial, England (2002), the Rice University Art Gallery, Houston (2010), and many more.
Anatsui once expressed that, his choice of materials used for his sculpture are seemingly stiff and sturdy but are actually free and flexible, therefore helps him manipulate his works easily.
SERGE ATTUKWEI CLOTTEY
The second artist in line is multi-talented Ghanaian artist named Serge Attukwei Clottey. Born in 1985 in Accra, Ghana, he started making his way into the limelight in 2003 where he showcased his first artwork. Attukwei Clottey is known for exhibiting great enthusiasm in the field of sculpture, installation, performance and photography. He moved to Brazil to continue his education in Guignard University of Art of Minas Gerias.
Even though he became quite popular in the Ghanaian community, he started making great appearances through his art exhibition in 2018, where he presented his works at the Gallery Takeover, Lawrie Shabibi Gallery, Dubai (2018), Differences Between, Jane Lombard Gallery, New York (2018), Everyday Myth: Survival and Sustenance, Ever Gold [Projects], San Francisco (2018), The Mistake Room, Los Angeles (2019), Sensitive Balance, GNYP Gallery, Berlin (2020), and more.
In 2019, Clottey was honored with an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from the University of Brighton, England. The artist however has retired to his roots, where he is now based in La Badi, Accra, Ghana, and serves as the creator of Afrogallonism and the Founder of Ghana’s GoLokal. He is known for creating art using yellow gallons in regards to consumption and necessity in the life of the modern African.
Arguably one of the ‘weirdest’ artists who demonstrates his works in quite an oddly satisfying way, Paa Joe as he is affectionately called, is a Ghanaian figurative palanquin and fantasy coffin artist who resides at Akwapim in the Eastern part of Ghana. His exceptional skills has made him one of the most sought-after Ghanaian coffin artists in his generation. He has been a part of the international art world for more than three decades, having participated in major exhibitions in Europe, Asia and America.
The British Museum in London houses one of his fantasy coffins as part of their exhibitions. In 2016, Joe’s life was used as an inspiration for a film shot by Benjamin Wigley and Anna Griffin of Artdocs Films titled “Paa Joe and the Lion.”
Joe’s works have been exhibited across the globe over three decades, including; Les Magiciens de la terre, Paris (1989), Autolust, Stapferhaus Lenzburg, Switzerland (2002), Melbourne Festival, Australia (2006), Jack Bell Gallery, UK (2011), High Museum of Art, Atlanta (2020), etc.
Adjo Kisser comes next on the list as probably one of the youngest artists in Ghana whose works have placed her in the midst of top artists across the country. In the quest to prove exceptional skills to battle gender criticisms and naysayers, she uses the elements of visual wit and punning. She graduated from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) as the overall Best Student in the Faculty of Art in the 2011/2012 academic year. She is also the recipient of the 2012/2013 Association of Painting Students’ Overall Best Student.
One of her works titled ‘The Portrait Series,’ has been exhibited in various parts of the country including the Voyage of (Re)Discovery at Nubuke Foundation at the Ussher Fort at James Town, Accra, which took place between 5th March – 26th April, 2015 to commemorate Ghana’s Independence Day.Kisser demonstrates her work in diverse ways which come in a multiplicity of forms, media and styles. However, it focuses on investigation into drawing, surpassing the literal meaning into the consideration of it poetically and metaphorically.
Considered as one of the most recognized Ghanaian Sculptors outside Africa, Kwame Akoto-Bamfo makes one of the most important forms of sculptures in recent years. He is known for creating thought-provoking sculptures which demonstrate great historical African events. He outdoors his sculptures, as they mostly occupy vast space due to the message they communicate and their interpretations. One of his most recognized works which was dedicated to the victims of the Transatlantic Slave Trade has made him very popular in the global space as it’s on display at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice which opened in Montgomery, Alabama in 2018.
In 2017, he unveiled the iconic ‘Nkyinkyim’ installation in Accra, Ghana; the sculpture which is now made up of the installation of 1,500 concrete heads representing Ghana’s enslaved ancestors. The name ‘Nkyinkyim’ is a popular adinkra symbol in the Akan community of Ghana which translates into “twisted”; which is related to a proverb that says, “life’s journey is twisted.” Akoto-Bamfo made the first sets of concrete heads in 2010. However, he started the installation on a large field closer to his studio in 2018. He once expressed that, the reason for choosing cement over clay is because cement is way cheaper and can withstand the Ghanaian atmosphere. According to him, he draws his inspiration from nature and African culture and history.
BRIGHT TETTEH ACKWERH
Appearing last on this list is Bright Tetteh Ackwerh. A humorist is what he is; an artist who demonstrates his skills in the most ridiculous ways possible. Ackwerh is a Ghanaian satirical artist who uses sociopolitical and religious issues to demonstrate his art. He is one of the most popular digital illustrators whose works have been exhibited widely across Ghana and West Africa.
He has managed to rake in quite a remarkable number of lovers for his artworks. He gained popularity through social media and also painting on wall murals in the streets of Accra. He has been featured in several exhibitions such as; Art X Lagos Exhibition, Nigeria, Blockbuster Exhibition by Blaxtarlines, Kumasi, Ghana, Chale Wote Street Art Festival, Accra, Ghana and more.
He has also participated in group exhibitions in Johannesburg, Paris and Los Angeles. He was also featured in the October, 2017 edition of CNN African Voice. He bagged the Kuenyehia Prize Award at the 2016 Contemporary Ghanaian Art Award.
These are a few amazing contemporary artists Ghana as a nation can boast of when it comes to making arts. It’s high time we appreciate and acknowledge the efforts of these artists whiles they are alive; “Give them their flowers whiles they can still smell it.” Not to discredit the efforts of the legends who made people develop their interest in making arts due to their display of prolific skills, but appreciating those alive are equally amazing and motivational.
Be inspired to do great things!