In the face of limited arts venues and support, creative artists are still finding ways to push their creativity and many people are buying into it.
When the good old years are spoken of by our parents or grandparents, they are often coloured with nostalgia. They are quick to point out, aside the many ‘freebies’, how they enjoyed during that era; the vibrancy and many options available to revelers. The many military interregnums were hiccups on the vibrant scene until the 1981 coup d’état finally burnt the vibrant and prosperous art scene.
For over thirty years, there had been efforts to resuscitate the arts scene in the country by successive governments, organizations and individuals. The gains chalked have been slow and measured. However, in recent years, it appears there is a sudden surge of interest in the arts. This renaissance is being led by individuals and organizations with interest in different fields of the art world through the organization of creative and avant-garde events that excite the interest of people.
One notable effect of this resurgence is the continuous expansion of the art space to cater for almost all the interests of patrons. From fashion to music, graffiti to arts exhibition, poetry and spoken word, book reading and theatre, the crowd who patronize these events are as diverse as they could be although events like book reading and arts exhibitions are perceived as ‘elitist’. If you are to scan the weekly events board of the city, you would realize that many of the events focus on one art form or the other.
One of the reasons contributing to the opening up of the art space is social media. Events are announced via many platforms; through retweets, sharing of links or tags, individuals get informed. And with hashtags becoming very important in this age, people are able to share updates on an events through tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram or snapchat which generates the interest of others.
For the past month, I have attended a series of events where the turnout had been good. These events provoked this write-up. The first was the Nkenten plugged #DecafLive, a live podcast session where four music heads shared their playlist with invited guests amidst (dis)agreement on music choices and taste. The interactions served both as an eye-opener and an introduction of new artists and music to the audience.
I also witnessed Classics In The Park, an event that focused on screening some old classic Ghanaian movies of old to a ‘young’ audience for free. It happens every last Saturday of each month. (Read an op-ed here). I was at a literary event organized by AccradotAlt featuring renowned author Ayi Kwei Armah and Ayesha Haruna. Later in the week, I joined others for Blitz The Ambassador’s ‘Diasporadical’ album listening event.
Also, the arty consciousness of people has been awakened through events such as the annual Chalewote Festival, which places the spotlight on diverse art forms in the country. This includes fashion, food, music, spoken word and poetry, photography, graffiti and paintings or illustrations. Artists are offered this opportunity to showcase their works to the millions who troop into Jamestown to be part of the event. There is also the Kuenyehia Prize which awards contemporary Ghanaian artists-photographers, illustrators, painters- after a competitive selection process. This year, the award was won by the talented illustrator Bright Ackwerh.
Despite what appears as the competitive nature; in terms of the multiplicity of art events in the city and the community of audience it seeks to attract; patronage to such events, even if not overwhelming serves as a booster to organizers.
On the theatre front, Roverman Productions has consistently kept the interest alive even when nobody cared much about the theatre. Now, the quarterly staging of Roverman plays are part of people’s plan. So huge is the patronage that, the plays are run twice a day and throughout the weekend. The new wave of excitement has inspired the likes of Globe Productions (Latif Abubakar) and Village Minds (Nii Ayi Solomon and W.K. Dziewornu – Norvor) to also showcase their plays, helping sustain the interest in the theatre.
Podcasts such as Accra We Dey, Department of Sounds and Decaf are bringing the artists, stakeholders and interesting happenings within the music space to a wider audience. Then, there are the music blogs who continuously share with the world music being produced by our own (Ghanaian) artists. With Accra We Dey covering the ‘low end of Accra and its creatives’, Department of Sounds spotlight the ‘movers and shakers’ in the city. Decaf, for lack of a better description, is the ‘music geeks’ playground. With all these initiatives, it is clear that almost every spectrum of the populace interests are covered.
One of the leading literary outfit in Ghana is Writers Project Ghana. Through its monthly Ghana Voices Series, they host an author who reads and interact with audience. Writers Project has hosted many writers; both local and foreign writers. The meetings grant the audience an opportunity to ask the author(s) questions based on their works and in the case of international writers, an opportunity to cultivate new fans.
Also there is a book reading club called Brunch Over Books (I saw on twitter) which has provided a platform for book lovers to share and discuss books they have read with one another over delicious meals. This way, they are spreading knowledge while networking and promoting reading culture.
Poetry and Spokenword:
Poetry is also gaining traction within the art scene in the city. In fact, it is currently one of the ‘loudest’ art forms around. The platforms offered by poetry groups such as Rainmakers, POETS, Ehalakasa to poets and spoken word artists help them showcase and develop their talents. And with the creation of Kpodola, an online portal biased towards poetry, the works of some of these poets are being documented for the future. Groups such as Ehalakasa and POETS have established annual poetry festivals to aid the growth of poetry in the city. Events such as Chaskele and JIVE are helping in pushing and promoting poetry and spoken word to both new and old audience.
One group of stakeholders who are also helping push these gains are the bloggers and various art focused websites. These sites/blogs are continuously documenting the cultural happenings in the city. Some of the blogs/sites doing amazing work had been discussed by Kobby Graham in this article. Sites such as Harmattan Rain,Unorthodox Reviews (music), Afro Volf (fashion) and Dandano (African films), though not captured in the article, are also promoting frenetically the many happenings within the city and beyond. By focusing on artists, events or works that the ‘mainstream’ websites do not cover, these blogs/sites are able to sell to their readers’ talents worth paying attention to.
The arts are as important at this time as it has ever been. It is the new frontier to showcase the country; thus its culture, its heritage, its potential, its diversity and its future to the rest of the world. The incentives that accrue to the artists and stakeholders are the very reason why it must be supported. If in the absence of any real government support, such gains are being chalked, imagine if there’s a deliberate support: from more cultural spaces to tax incentives and copyright laws- and corporate Ghana support. Ghana would be the bigger beneficiary.
With organisations such as Alliance Franciase (Accra), Republic Bar, Space Station (Brazil House), Nubuke, Tea Baa and others offering their space for various events coupled with appreciable patronage and support from people, artists and organisers would continue to create and host diverse events to meet the interest of patrons.