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