A snapshot and introduction of institutions and catalytic individuals making the creative community in the West African city of Accra both critical and vibrant.
Our first stop was a visit to Nubuke Foundation to meet with Odile Tevie, the director and co-founder.
Tevie left the financial industry, then set up one of Accra's few operational art spaces.
Along with co-founder and artist Kofi Setordji, Odile explained that initiating Nubuke almost a decade ago was imperative as "there was hardly any sort of art programming in Ghana."
The vibrant wall painting at the entrance to Nubuke's compound. The institution's co-founder, artist Kofi Setordji explains how it came to be:
“Bernard Akoi-Jackson paints monochrome, so when he started (it’s his drawing) I influenced him to make it more colourful.”
Learn more: nubukefoundation.org
From Nukube Foundation, we headed to Setordji's own studio and art residency space, Arthaus. A hand welcomes us to his painting and sculpture studio; it's a recurring motif:
“The hand is the greatest tool of man but if you use the two hands to beg, which one will you use to work?”
- Kofi Setordji, artist
Over the course of his career, Glover has made innumerable contributions to local arts and culture,
including his documentation of Adinkra symbols.
‘Sankofa’, means one must go back to their roots in order to progress forward. Glover drew this symbol for Hans Ulrich Obrist's Instagram project protesting against the disappearance of handwriting.
For our next meeting, we headed to WEB Dubois center, to meet artists running the Foundation of Contemporary Art. Ato Annan explained the institution's genesis:
“FCA was established to give visibility to artists, and even for artists who are looking for collaborations with other artists would come to the space and find artists, or information.”
- Ato Annan, Projects officer and co-director, FCA - Ghana
During the course of our conversation, we learned why we are unable to meet in their office and studio space—earlier in the year, severe flooding led to a tree falling on their studio, destroying the structure and all of its contents.
“So we’ve lost our only art library in Ghana; it was a bit more tailored. That is why I say it was the most extensive in terms of books.”
—Michael Angel Sowah, Curator, describing the gravity of the loss for the local artistic community.
FCA has since launched a campaign to re-build the library and property.
Learn more: fcaghana.org
Oforiatta-Ayim has embarked on a very ambitious project, The Cultural Encyclopedia.
Over the coming 30 to 50 years, she will spearhead a pan-African effort to research and document cultural histories of the past, and bring them into the contemporary. She explains:
“There has been so much talk about amnesias of knowledge, especially of our historical knowledge, that I feel like at least at the beginning I want it to be a bit more of an experimental platform.”
Learn more: culturalencyclopaedia.org
We had a bright and early breakfast meeting with one of Accra's leading members of the artistic community, artist Nii Obodai. He is the founder of Nuku Studio, a photography workshop program. He shared these thoughts on the impetus behind his efforts:
"It’s incredibly urgent, I am glad we’re having this discussion, because I don’t think that there is anything more exciting and important than to set-up the schools." —Nii Obodai
“I am working with a small, but dynamic group of photographers; both local and international. Half of them are coming in from a blank page, as photographers and artists. So, it’s nice to be able to help them conceptualise their world or put things into context, so that they can work with a framework and can tell the stories that the want to.”
—Nii Obodai, artist and founder of Nuku Studio
Before heading to visit the graduate show featuring some of the 89plus Accra workshop participants, Hans Ulrich asked Nii Obodai:
“What is your advice to a young artist, a young photographer?”
Nii Obodai’s response:
“Stay the path.
Stay the path.
Go the long way, it’s the best way.
Nothing ever stays the same.
But you got to stay your course.”
“Most of the unrealised works are the very strong political ones. Like working with spaces with very significant history…I am interested in these sets of failures and contradictions embedded within the space, and because the material has all of these different mappings and other things, it has this multiple layers of different constructed spaces, and those spaces. You don’t see them, but then they are present and I think the sublime nature of it has a way of working when you encounter it.”
—Ibrahim Mahama, artist
The 89plus Accra research program was initiated by 89plus co-curators Simon Castets and Hans Ulrich Obrist, in collaboration with publishing platform Another Africa, and its founder, Missla Libsekal. They were joined by 89plus art residency participant and South African emerging artist, Bogosi Sekhukhuni.
This project was made possible with the support of Google Cultural Institute.
With thanks to the following individuals and institutions for their support:
Joe Addo, David Adjaye, Kofi Agorsor, Geoffrey Biekro Akpene, ACCRA [dot] ALT, Dr. Dorothy Amenuke, Adwoa Amoah, Patrick Okanta Ankra, Ato Annan, Mantse Aryeequaye, Nana yaa Asare-Boadu, Serge Attukwei Clottey, Godfried Donkor, Nubuke Foundation, Beatrice Galilee, Artists Alliance Gallery, Foundation for Contemporary Art – Ghana, Ablade Glover, Carsten Höller, Prof "Castro" Kwaku Boafo Kissiedu, Meir Kordovani, Cyril Kpodo, Selom Kudjie, Benjamin LeBrave, Ibrahim Mohamed Mahama, Dr. Sionne Neely, Kafui Nyavor, Nana Oforiatta-Ayim, Senam Okudzeto, Giovanna Olmos, Kwabena Afriyie Poku, Francis Nii Obodai Provencal, OfKob Artist Residency, Robin Risken, kąrî’kachä sei’dou, Kofi Setordji, Selasie Awusi Sosu, Michael Sowah, Nuku Studio, Odile Tevie, Eve Therond, Rikki Wemega-Kwawu and more.