ATTUKWEI- THE AFROGALLONIST FROM LABADI

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(Attukwei ‘The Plastic Journeys’ photo by Golokal)

He traces his Labadi-resident, painter, photographer, sculptor, performance artist and Afrogallonism guru  Attukwei had a very good year in 2014, being featured in many magazines including Okay Africa, projects across Europe as artist-in-residence at Kunsthalle Exnergasse and exhibitions as well as performances in conjunction with Accra [dot] Alt. We find the characteristic feature of Attukwei’s work in the riddle of its organic synthesis through the artistic comprehension of how it unravels with its philosophical and scientific perception. This alloy of the artistic and the philosophical figments is inherent in all the legendary creatives the world has ever known.

His work navigates the essence of identity in relation with a particular location; Labadi, and spiritual presence as a resident of the dense town in the middle of Accra which has a history that few Ghanaians are inclined to. His new series of art works; ‘The Plastic Journeys’ as compared to his other patterns is different in terms of complexity and texture. He showcases his works mostly on his blog: (www.sergeoclottey.blogspot.com) and connects with artists and enthusiasts worldwide who admire his pieces as an eye-opener to what could come out of material that are common in our society but regarded less as probable art composites.

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He finds these jerrycans/ “Kuffuor gallons”(named after the ex-president of Ghana, the gallons are used due to water supply problems) in and around  the Kpeshie lagoon which has a history with the Teshie and La stool-lands who fought over its ownership, in the form of neglected waste. He collects these gallons to his workshop, and with his Golokal  team, make intrinsic art that speaks volumes. His work weaves the context of history and relevance of materials like the plastic as used daily by people in the Ghanaian society to collect water or fuel as well as their potential of ending up as waste and contaminating the environment.

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(Attukwei- Migration Messages 2014)

The patterns he exhibited at the recent Sabolai Music Festival had plastic pieces woven together like textiles, embedded computer keyboards and remote controls. That he explains as the infusion of technology and its results in relation to the contemporary state of the society. The jerrycans used for art is nothing new, as seen in Beninois artist, Romuald Hazoume’s works, but here it finds a different meaning and is in relation to a different group of people and context. He showcased a different series of works using wooden logs to depict migration and its problems earlier on in 2014, and goes on to perform with a team of artists called Golokal in Accra about political and socially relevant issues like global warming, capitalism and imperialism

.(the torn flags - Serge Attukwei 2014)serge3serge6

His photography finds poetry distilled in a frame shared from the common environment where his art works are developed. Attukwei is a contemporary artist, but one who identifies very well as a socially-conscious subject of his reality and a passionate one at it, reflecting the truth that art is not always so far-fetched.

In his performance art piece; “Gold Coast;” together with the Golokal group and the students from the University of Applied art ( Austria, Vienna), they explored the illegal mining problem posed by Chinese in Ghana.  He mentions that; “there were rumours going round in La that I had dug gold after my performance of Gold Coast.”

He also has an on-going project he calls “Africa is not charity” which involves video installations, sculptures, photography and performances.  His parodies in experimental theater, music and art installations are distinct and intriguing. Once asked by Accra [dot] Alt about what inspires the Golokal performances, Attukwei responds “I look at the community I live in because that inspires my work. I look at people and how they struggle to speak. Then I try to bring out solutions to problems that are affecting the community.”

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LEGEND FEATURE: Angélique Kidjo honoured!

Angélique Kidjo was honoured with two trophies at the including one for best female artiste in West Africa. The event was held in Lagos last Saturday.

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(photo by Benin Cultures)

Though she wasn’t able to make the trip to Lagos in person for the evening of the gala of the All Africa Music Awards ( afrima ), Bénin Cultures announced yesterday(29th December) that the legendary singer has officially received her trophies. The minister of culture, Jean – Michel Abimbola confirmed this to the press.
The presentation  took place at the ministry of culture in the early evening in the presence of others like Richmir Totah (who led the delegation in Lagos), the director of the aid fund to the culture and the director of the artistic and cultural promotion.

Also, there were other well-known African music names on the nominees list including; Mafikizolo (South Africa) with 6 nominations, Davido (Nigeria) also with 6 nominations, Diamond Platnumz (Tanzania) 2 nominations, Amr Diab (Egypt) 2 nominations, Zahara (South Africa) 3 nominations, Angelique Kidjo (Benin Republic) 2 nominations, Fally Ipupa (DRC) 1 nomination, Sakordie (Ghana) 1 nomination, Tiwa Savage (Nigeria) 2 nominations, Uhuru (South Africa) 5 nominations and Mi Casa (South Africa) 4 nominations. Leading the budding music acts on AFRIMA Nominees’ List is: TemiDollFace (Nigeria) 4 nominations, others are Wiyaala (Ghana) 3 nominations; Patoranking (Nigeria) 2 nominations; Davina Green (Zimbabwe) 1 nomination and Noura Mint Seymale (Mauritania) 2 nominations, etc.

Angélique Kpasseloko Hinto Hounsinou Kandjo Manta Zogbin Kidjo, known as Angélique Kidjo, is a Grammy Award–winning singer-songwriter and activist from Benin, noted for her diverse musical influences and style. She was born into a musical family and at an early age of 6, was already performing with her  mother’s theatre crew.

DEAR DAKAR SOUND ART

Dakar, the capital of Senegal is arguably one of the gateways to Africa and a historic pillar of the salt of art with relevance also in the contemporary world reflecting the deep textures of style and intricacy that Africa can boast of on any day! dear dakar1

The 4th edition of the CCA, Lagos Àsìkò art school programme ran from 5th May to 8th June 2014. The participating artists were Nduwhite Ndubuisi Ahanonu (Nigeria),  Eza Komla (Togo), Taiye Idahor (Nigeria), Kitso Lynn Lelliott (South Africa), Vasco Manhiça (Mozambique), Rafiy Smith Okefolahan (Benin), Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh (Ghana), Moses Serubiri (Uganda), Tito Valery (Cameroon), and curators were Dana Whabira (Zimbabwe), Lassana Igo Diarra (Mali), Moses Serubiri (Uganda) and Cliford Zulu (Zimbabwe).

In the development of this project, the director of CCA, Lagos, Bisi Silva (Nigeria) and programme facilitators, Stephanie Cardon (United States) and Kianga Ford (United States) of the Global Crit Clinic, and Eddie Chambers (United Kingdom) worked closely with the workshop participants.

As installed in a room at the Piscine Olympique Nationale, Dakar, on Saturday 7 June, between 17:00 and 18:30, the project was formed from a pastiche of recitals seeded between the concept of storytelling or narration influenced by exposure, observance and/or perspicacity, and letter writing; as from a soul to a location.

Languages; french and english dominantly express timeless emotions and memories collected over a period of time like cowries or shells at a shore of experience. Lines like “art is the language that mediates our character” and Clifford Zulu’s “the vision that has opened up new windows, knocked on the door covered by so much web and nests so thick that you can’t even see the handles..a few that have used the doors to Dakar, to the dark continent, return, not visible to many of us but they are coming back with bright torches” bear concrete poesy.

You can visit Asiko Art School online here: http://www.asikoartschool.org

ART MELODY & STEVO ATAMBIRE: A MATCH MADE FOR MUSIC!

If you’re anything like me, your music festival taste must have been met keenly by the real buzzy treat and transformational experience that Sabolai Radio brought Accra. We are thankful to Accra [dot] alt, first and foremost as well as the collaborating entities including the French Embassy, Absolut Vodka, Skillions Rec, Beat Phreaks, YoyoTinz and Live Fm for such a splendid weekend of good music, alternative art and jazzy party in the open- must have been the best treat for the end of year!

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(#‎ArtMelody‬ & ‪#‎StevoAtambire‬ sound check at ‪#‎sabolai2014‬. Photo by LeBrave)

There’s one particular performance worthy of note! Benjamin LeBrave, CEO of Akwaaba Soundz had to yell; “This is the first time Art Melody Art Melody & Stevo Atambire are performing together? and already the crowd sings along…! Thanks again for the opportunity to try this, more vim!”

I started following Art Melody’s work sometime last year and got hooked to his LP “Wogdog Blues” (http://artmelody.bandcamp.com/). The interesting aspect of his charged vocal delivery but rhythmic play, though I understood only half of what he said made me stream the whole catalog. The talented Burkinabe musician is more of a freestylist and is never afraid to speak his mind. We get a bit of that touch when he says “Burkina receives electricity from Ghana, but we have electricity and Ghana gets dumsor” in the middle of his performance.

Stevo Atambire has the heart for singing, in his own carved niche while strumming the kologo. Uniquely built, as compared to Ayisoba’s work which kicks in a range of vocal pitches and tones. Sabolai Radio had both! Stevo Atambire and Art Melody merged fantastically with gyrating music and the band was as much creative! Such collaborations are but smelt from the blissful pits of natural knacks.

The peak of their set had a tune that’s stuck in many an attendee’s head- “minus me, plus me”! This is where Stevo and Art beckon the crowd to either respond by saying “minus me” or “plus me” to whatever statement they would pose. Obviously, people went for “plus me” as a response to positive assertions and vice versa. The “eating pizza, chewing khebab” political piece is also so worthy of note. We want more!

MULTI-TALENTED ARTIST JAHWI TO DROP “THE CALL” SOON!

“When they hear the call
How many go go?
Afflicted in the mind and confused in the soul
When they hear the call
How many will follow..”

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(cover art of “the call” by Jahwi)

Such is how the chorus of the soon to hit the streets “The Call” goes. Expect something unique and confidently contra-distinctive from this multi-ability artist, who is the founder of Madd Renegade; producers of workshops for artists as well as cultural events.

Kwabena Danso, popularly known as Jahwi’s style weaves dub step rhythms, spoken word touches usually in pidgin English through beat box patterns. Also, he sometimes makes his own beats as was evident in some tracks on his debut solo album; ANCIENT SOUL CRIES, which was launched at Alliance Francaise D’Accra on the 24th of April, 2013.

From Dj-ing at the age of 6 to performing on international stages, capturing life through the lens to impressing it on paper with ink, creating identities for companies to decorating walls of Accra with graffiti, Kwabena Danso, the son of a Ghanaian father and Russian mother can best be described as an artist with no boundaries to his intelligent art. The thread of his philosophy in life and art can be traced via a physical manifestation of spiritual journeys and lessons.

One can find the lyrics of “The Call” on his website (http://kwabenadanso.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/the-call-jahwi/) and identify the intricacy of his lyricism as he runs some contrasts embedded with alliterations and symbology;

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(@i_jahwi & @mrrooteye en route to @Ghnature studios to record #TheCall)

“See mi tall tall like afadjato
Dem be small small nodey reach Kanto
Dem dey fall fall like alikoto
And spill dem guts like a snitch will do…”

In a world of social networks and influx of information which seemingly create a global consciousness, wouldn’t it have made more sense if more people were socially conscious like this artist? From the concept of a social mind, Professor Charles H. Cooley schools us deeper by putting it this way; “The unity of the social mind consists, not in agreement but in organization in the fact of reciprocal influence or causation amongst its parts, by virtue of which everything that takes place in it is connected with everything else and so is an outcome of a whole.”

Just like a musical orchestra is made up of divergent but related sounds, talented artists like Jahwi think outside the box without losing focus of what is in the box. You can find Jahwi’s piece “WE NO DEY FEAR HUU” on the spoken word compilation VOCAL PORTRAITS 2: KENTE LOCUTIONS here: https://soundcloud.com/vocalportraits/we-no-dey-fear-huu-jahwi-w-ansong-prod-drumnayshin?in=vocalportraits/sets/vocal-portraits-2

MARKO93: KING OF STAR WALLS

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(Jerome2K, Lyric, Marko Ventura, Moussa Billy, Mickael, Kumasi, Ghana, 2014. with Marko Ventura)

I met Marko93 for the first time at Alliance Francaise d’Accra on his last day in town, after he had been around spraying graffiti on walls from the prominent streets of Kumasi to the crannies of Nima. He had been in town for close to two weeks and was again on his way to Nima to do yet another mural though he had less than 10 hours to his flight departure time.

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(Kumasi, Ghana, 2014. — with Marko93 Ventura)

I had to meet the Musical Lunatics band for a rehearsal for the November 7th Phreak Out Live show; a show put up by DJ Keyzz and the Phreak Out Live guys featuring stellar rappers Ewudzi and Dex Kwasi, intriguing dancers and gymnasts, Serge Atukwei and the Golokal group, enthralling acts like Wanlov and A.I, Azizaa; an energetic female dubstep musician, myself and a lineup of dope DJs and performers as well as a live band doling out an eclectic mix of Trap, Grime, Dubstep, Drum n Bass, House, Soca, Rock, Dancehall and Hip-hop music. Phreak Out Live would turn out to be one of the most musically relevant events of this year.

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(Le ciel est ouvert a ceux qui ont des ailes #graffiti #streetart #marko93 #ghana #nima #accra)

The rehearsal was supposed to be at 12noon. I got there at 8am – So non-Ghanaian of me! It was Thursday November 6th 2014, the weather was as cool as a morning kiss. I was wearing my long sleeved T-shirt, jeans and Champion sneakers. This guy was not too close to 5ft, wore jeans shorts and carried a hugely packed backpack which had spray cans poking out. No one should tell you he was an artist!

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(Graffiti Marko93 X Moh X Abane Nima, Accra, Ghana, 2014 — with AF Accra, Marko Ventura and Hip Hop-Citoyens)

I approached him and said hi! I mentioned that I heard his graffiti workshops had gone well. He told me further about his experiences at Kumasi and how the people were so warm and helpful. He said he was on his way to Nima to work. I said I had time on my hand and could tag along. He was okay with that so we headed off to the road side to catch a cab. He was thankful that I bargained to get a fair rate of 5 GHc. “Obrunis do not get a fair price on these streets;” He said. I chuckled. We both spoke diced English plus French.

We got to Nima gutter area by 9:03am. I remember it was around this time that he mentioned that the 93 in his name represented the code of where he comes from; Seine-Saint-Denis in France. The only visible worn out graffiti streaks around Nima gutter were that of Shatta Wale; the popular musician’s effigy had been sprayed carelessly on the wall of a public urinal. Marko93 had been there the previous day and finished a mural which had a Muslim woman wearing a turban and other designs with Ghanaian graffiti artist, Mohammed AKA MOH. Aside MOH and Selorm Jay of YoyoTinz, we were joined by Baba, a young videographer and resident of Nima who took us on a brief tour till we located a bare wall which was suitable according to Marko’s discretion. We asked permission from the owner (of course) and Marko went straight to work.

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“Star Walls” avec Raouf, Manaf, Nassiba et Youssef. Graffiti #Marko93, Nima, Accra, Ghana, 2014. avec Kwame Write, YoyoTinz & MOH (Réalisé quelques heures avant de prendre l’avion pour Paris… In Light We Trust)

We were in the middle of this art piece, when this gentleman from nowhere looking furious started saying all sorts of things in Hausa language. Baba talked to him into understanding that it was just an art piece to beautify the surroundings. The guy, apparently thought it had some spiritual connotations and couldn’t understand that we chose that particular wall and not any other for the work. He walked off into the narrow corners and was never to be seen again. Delighted kids filed quietly in the small space beside the wall admiring the colours that layered the surface. A few of them would later wield small branded torches given to them by Marko93 as representations of sabers inclusive in the detail of the mural for a photoshoot.

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“Nima Accra” #Lightpainting #Marko93, #Nima, #Accra, #Ghana, 2014. — with Marko Ventura.

“To create light graffiti, you take a long exposure, and use a light source to paint graffiti in the frame;” Marko lectured. The history of light painting; one of Marko’s signature techniques, dates back to 1889 when Étienne-Jules Marey and Georges Demeny met when Demeny enrolled in a physiology course being taught by Marey. In 1889 Demeny attached incandescent bulbs to the joints of an assistant and created the first known light painting photograph “Pathological Walk From in Front”.

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#graffiti #marko93 feat moh #accra #ghana #alliancefrancaise #hiphopcitoyens

Marko also did a mural at Alliance Francaise d’Accra supported by MOH. That particular piece had an Akuaba in the centre. Akua’ba (from Akua, a day-name for a female born on a Wednesday, and ba, child; hence, Akua’s child) refers to the fertility doll carved from wood by the Ashanti. Other works of his include Adinkra symbols as well as colloquial words or sayings he picked on the streets on his visit. Visit Marko93 here: https://www.facebook.com/marko93darkvapor

IF THE T-SHIRT FITS.. — ZOHRA OPOKU AD[DRESSES] ACCRA!


CONTEMPORARY GHANAIAN ART AND SOCIAL ISSUES

Not too many contemporary artists, especially in Ghana venture outside the box to implement their ideologies in tandem with social issues or use their artworks as a form of [in]direct social commentary the way artist Zohra Opoku does. She has installed 5 billboards at vantage points in Accra on which ‘unwanted’ clothes from Accra’s Kantamanto market are pinned in style metaphorically depicting the statement “putting your dirty linen in public”.

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Who is wearing my T-shirt? The BillboardProject (2014). Photo Courtesy: Artist

Other Ghanaian artists worth noting are Attukwei, who uses yellow gallons which are usually used to collect drinking water found in polluted areas in his vicinity as part of interactive public performances, sculptures and installations not forgetting Bernard Akoi Jackson; a multi-disciplinary who uses his painting, installation and performance art in interrogating pre and post-colonial African identities and more.

ZOHRA OPOKU’S ARTISTIC JOURNEY

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(WoMen ON BIKES, Chale Wote Festival 2012, photo credit: Accra [dot] alt)
The first Zohra Opoku project that I came across was the WoMen ON BIKES Interdisciplinary Workshop in 2011; a fashion/art workshop that was put in place to explore the limits and possibilities of usability of bikes in urban West African spaces and in particular the significance they could have for women as a tool of empowerment. The following year, she was in action doing an installation performance involving pieces of Kente prints installed in a linear structure along the paved Jamestown streets aside mixed media of an Afro-futuristic representation of a woman on a bike. She personally rode a BMX in style throughout the day at the Chale Wote street art festival 2012.  
As a German/Ghanaian fashion designer, who has now made art her home, Zohra Opoku has been known to make bold aesthetic statements through textile and fashion culture related to African history, hybridizing trends and migrations between Africa and its diaspora. Her work spans the creative application of media and styles such textiles and fashion objects through installations, photography, video and street style intervention. She lives and works in Accra, Ghana. The cardinal question behind her artistic alacrity is the subject of identity.

THE POLITICS OF SECONDHAND CLOTHING

Whether it is a hot afternoon in Accra, when busy people invade the thighs of the traffic jammed streets of dressed in their best bib and tucker or calm dusk inhaling the soothing crisp mood the atmosphere invents, secondhand clothing (locally termed obroni waawu) has been a prime aspect of the fashion Ghanaian citizens have known.

The global trade of secondhand clothing has had a long and important history even since mid 19th century, affecting industrialization, mass production and economies. As we see in the table below, sub-Saharan Africa has been the most heavily hit:

Region Secondhand Clothing as % of all imports (2003, by value)
Eastern Europe & ex-USSR 4.7%
East Asia & Pacific 0.7%
Latin America & Caribbean 3.8%
Middle East & North Africa 2.2%
South Asia 15.0%
Sub-Saharan Africa 26.8%

Even during Europe’s colonial days, secondhand clothes were shipped to the colonies. Since the 2nd World War the secondhand clothing trade has grown considerably globally. It’s a big question of whether it’s a recycling option or a method of promoting the ideologies of sustainability and environmentalism or as a cost-conscious approach on the side of the consumers. In “The impact of the secondhand clothing trade on developing countries” by Sally Baden and Catherine Barber (September 2005), it was argued that “Increasingly cheap [secondhand clothing] imports are competing with local production, while supply-side constraints undermine the efficiency of the domestic industry.” The trade is also “mainly informal, poorly regulated, and in some instances has facilitated considerable customs fraud as new clothing imports are passed off as used clothing”.

Research has shown that textile recycling warehouses, where secondhand clothes are graded have become very important in the secondhand industry. There’s the division of the secondhand clothes into sorted ones which are compressed into standard bales of 50 kg while unsorted ones can be packed into bales of 500 to 1000 kg. The lower graded clothing is shipped to Africa and Asia while the better graded used clothing is exported to Central American Countries.

Some countries, including India and the Philippines have put a ban on the import of used or pre-owned clothes, in an attempt to safeguard the local garment industry. Other counties which have no or limited control include South Africa, Pakistan or Uganda because of their burgeoning Textile Industry. South Asia, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands and Hungary are the countries where the sites for commercial sorting of secondhand clothes are situated.

BBC 2, MailOnline, and The Telegraph on Monday,14th July, 2014 in the UK, claimed that Ghanaian traders were able to make up to £25,000 a day from secondhand clothing from UK charity shops. It is estimated that, Ghana imports 30,000 tons of secondhand clothes each year. An importer of used clothes, Mr Obed Yeboah, stated that ladies’ panties and brassieres are priced between GH¢150 and GH¢450 per bale.

BILLBOARD ART, PUBLIC SPACE, FASHION AND IDENTITY

Billboard marketing can be seen almost everywhere you go these days and at any hour. Billboards and outdoor advertising are known to be mass media tools needed to make a big impact and to raise a company’s profile and deliver results. It has been a staple in the marketing industry for some time now.

As a nationwide celebration of America’s artistic heritage, digital billboards across New York’s Times Square have been used to display images of 58 classic and contemporary works of American art. This happened between August 4th and 31st, 2014, officially marking the start of ‘Art Everywhere US’. As many as 50,000 digital and static displays in all 50 states including billboards on city streets and rural highways became platforms for art. The difference here is Zohra Opoku’s application of textiles (mixed media) as sculpture compositions on billboards to address a pertinent social issue.

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Who is wearing my T-shirt? The BillboardProject (2014). Photo Courtesy: Artist

Zohra Opoku’s ideas and philosophies concerning her art in public places carry clout. In Bart Verschaffel’s paper “Public Truth and Public Space”, he mentions that; “The public space is meant for free exploration, free association and free assembly..In a democratic society, where the decisions concerning society are, in principle, taken in public, this implies that the freely accessible public space is also the political space.”The public space which also serves as the political space is the prominent platform for Zohra’s social artistry and as much as identity is one of the most imperative concepts in human livelihoods while fashion is undoubtedly involved in [re]constructions of identity, there’s much to digest from the exhibition. Zohra Opoku thought-provokingly asks; “If clothes make up our identity and culture, what happens to our identity, when the clothes are changed?”

By Kwame ‘Write’ Aidoo