For EVER YOUNG: The Iconic Photography of James Barnor

JAMES BARNOR by Jei Tootle Photography

Ghana’s most prolific photographer, James Barnor, has captured images that detail more than sixty years of significant historical moments. His subjects include the country’s leaders (Kwame Nkrumah, Jerry Rawlings + A.Q.A. Acheampong), world prizefighters (Muhammad Ali + Adjetey Sowah), pop culture starlets (Marie Hallowi + Erlin Ibreck), and plain old regular folk.

Barnor’s immortalizing imagery of everyday people culls the magic from the mundane. He shows us the striking dignity, confident awareness and rippling pleasure of those being photographed.

Barnor not only opened Ghana’s first color photo lab, Ever Young in James Town (the center of historic Accra) but he went on to travel the world as a photographer with Drum Magazine, the leading African culture publication of the 1950s + 1960s.

Barnor’s images of a nation in transition – from colonization to independence – provide a mesmerizing blueprint of the possibilities of human experience. And his distinct cinematic vision pushes Ghanaian photographers to contribute brave new work to an unfolding national archive.

Here Barnor shares his Ever Young story  (via Nowness) :

So in 1950, aged 21, I rented a small shop in James Town in Accra and opened a studio and dark room. I painted the signboard myself––I named it EVER YOUNG, after a story I’d heard when I was younger about a goddess who lived in a pretty grove of the same name. The goddess knew she was really old, but a hero came to give her an apple that, as soon as she had eaten it, made her feel fresh and young again. That brings back the magic of retouching in photography––filling all the lines and ridges to make the person look young.

There was no electricity there when I started so I used the daylight for shoots. There was no running water either, so I had to walk to a communal tap at the end of the road to collect water for developing. I went on to work as a photojournalist at the two main publications in Ghana––the newspaper The Daily Graphic, and Drum, the leading magazine in Africa, which covered news, politics and entertainment.

Covering politics was where Drum had trouble, because when African countries were becoming independent, and you bring out stories some people don’t like, they would do anything. Drum was banned in Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana at one time.

If you are interested in seeing more of James Barnor’s photographic journey, check out “Ghana – A Heritage Ever Young” - a three-day exhibit featuring exclusive photos and never-seen-before prints from Barnor’s archive. The exhibition will take place June 30 – July 2nd at the Silverbird Lounge in Accra Mall.

IND!E FUSE Returns December 2012

OH CHALE! We are backononono for a third time with IND!E FUSE, the illest live music show in Accra this December at Alliance Francaise. To get you in the spirit, we’re dropping the trailer from last December’s show. Relive the copious amounts of fun had by all with just a click of a button.

In case you missed out, here’s a recap:

Oodles + noodles of cool folk jam-pack the joint out – holiday visitors returning home from the U.S., U.K. + beyond bond tight with the hometown crowd – PY Annan + @MutomboDaPoet keep the crowd amped with their side-splitting, funnyman antics – Mawuli Fudoglo + Tacitus the Greek Ga God take over the stage to show everyone the proper way to azonto – Kobby Graham aka The Funky Professor keeps it smoove + ever-funky as our resident wax selecta – Ananse aka Old Dad bumrushes eager fans who get too close to the stage then suddenly transforms into a freeze! pop-n-lock mime dancer making you wonder what the flipmode squad hell is going on?!

 B.I.L.S. Rayoe surprises the audience with a kick-ass painted acrobatic troupe that eats fire – Azizaa performs her psycho-tropic myth music in the stands – Jojo Abot brings down the house with her natty Afro funk punk sound – The SANKWAS BOIS stir the pot with their tripped-up pidgen headbangas – Holla Blak casts spells with ther pan-African sticky icky lullabies (roll your blunt with that) – Lady Jay’s super-heroine sultry anthems hit you like an Accra heatwave – Steloo + Yaw P make you jump jump to their hypnotic house beats – Kofi BeatMenace and the Smol Smol Distins Band wreak havoc with their folk monster jams – Jayso, Shaker, Rumor and Sandra of Skillions Records kill it with their edgy yet charismatic bass bumpers – Yaa Pono and FaintMedal debut their now classic “I Dey Feel You Die” and create an infectious, all-out luvfest – and Wanlov the Kubolor spouts spoken word gems then unwraps his Christmas present for all to see.

WANLOV THE KUBOLOR IN ACTION @ IND!E FUSE

WELL, DAYUM. If you are digging all that, you won’t believe what we have in store for you this December.

So, get krunk. We’re live from the Ghana Space Station, baby, and beaming straight into your speakers. MO VIM coming your way real soon.

IND!E FUSE returns this December 2012.

MISS UNIVERSE VISITS ACCRA

Leila Lopes, the reigning Miss Universe, stopped over in Accra this month on a five-country tour of West Africa. The Angolan winner of the crown is the second Black African woman to fill this much-coveted role (following Mpule Kwelagobe of Botswana in 1999). In addition to Ghana, Lopes visited Senegal, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Togo to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS prevention. This is a part of her mission as a UN Goodwill Ambassador in completion of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals.
The SOS Tour in Africa is organized by Roberta Annan Consulting Group.

As a souvenir, Lopes received a gold necklace engraved with Adinkra symbols to signify the importance of her visit to Ghana. Lucky girl.

As Miss Universe, Lopes also receives these cool perks during her tenure: a shoe collection from Chinese Laundry; a one-year scholarship (including housing) from the New York Film Academy; luxury accommodations in a NYC apartment, including living expenses; a year-long salary; and extensive travel opportunities (in a private plane) with unlimited access to movie premieres, film festivals, Broadway shows and launch parties worldwide, along with much much more.

Check out our photo exclusives of Miss Universe’s visit to Accra:

MISS UNIVERSE ARRIVES AT KOTOKA INT’L AIRPORT IN ACCRA

ROBERTA ANNAN, MS. LOPES + GUEST AT LABADI BEACH HOTEL

CHILLING IN THE HOTEL LOUNGE BETWEEN MEETINGS

LOPES GREETED BY DANCERS AT THE SOS VILLAGE IN TEMA

LOPES CUTS A RUG WITH THE DANCERS

THE BOYS OF SOS VILLAGE IN TEMA

LOPES + MISS UNIVERSE GHANA 2011 @ THE SAMSUNG EVENT, MOVENPICK AMBASSADOR HOTEL

YAYRA E. NEGO, MISS UNIVERSE GHANA 2011

NEGO GETS UP CLOSE + PERSONAL

LOPES + MANTSE ARYEEQUAYE (ACCRA [dot] ALT) x THE AFRICA CHANNEL CREW

ZAKI IBRAHIM: The EVERY OPPOSITE Album Launch

@cvarin shares her supafresh photos with ACCRA [dot] ALT Radio

In an era where just being remembered is the average artist’s daily struggle, Zaki Ibrahim delivers Every Opposite, an album whose apocalyptic allure makes it impossible to forget. Producer Tiago Correia-Paulo attributes one thing. Her voice.

“Zaki has an extraordinary voice and no instrument – not even an orchestra – would be able to compete with it,” says Tiago who handled most of the musical direction for Every Opposite.

The two became acquainted in 2005 when his band Tumi and the Volume toured Canada, at the time Zaki’s abode. Elsewhere, they both are credited with building the score for award-winning South African film Otelo Burning. One of Zaki’s three songs for the soundtrack, produced by DJ Catalist, is also Every Opposite’s lead single Something in the Water.

A post-dubstep, synth-heavy, kalimba (thumb piano)-led track, it is at once futuristic and primal, and is now pulsating its way into radio’s mainstream having been championed by tastemakers such as 5 FM’s Catherine Grenfell who enthuses, “Amazing, soulful voice, beautiful songs! The gorgeous Zaki Ibrahim will move you in your body and soul and I look forward to watching her musical career grow as she rises above the rest.”

Recently, attendants at the house music mecca that is Miami’s Winter Music Conference reveled in multiple showcases given by the Canadian-born Ibrahim who was there to open the International Dance Music Awards thanks in no small part to her prominent associations within the genre: on long time collaborator Nick Holder’s Heartbeat, with DJ Kent on the soulful tech tune Sunrise, and on Culoe de Song’s album Elevation for instance. (Culoe also remixed Ansomnia, Zaki’s contribution to the soundtrack of Tyler Perry’s film For Colored Girls where Janelle Monae and Estelle among others also feature.)

You’ll hear strains of these dance formats deconstructed alongside pop, indie, soul, Hip-hop and afro beat sounds to create an utterly comprehensive album that is plural in its reach – (Every Opposite was recorded in eight different places) – and singular in its captivating effect.

THE JOZI FANS SHOW ZAKI LUV

Sade, Stevie Wonder, Zap Mama, Radiohead, and J. Dilla counting are just some of the icons Zaki names as life-long inspirations. “It’s told as a fable and is set in the future,” says the singer/song-writer who counts her fascination with science fiction as a major influence for her album’s loose narrative.

For her first full-length album, Zaki Ibrahim is impressively seasoned. With two preceding EPs she has galvanized her profile as a recording and performing artist sought after by celebrated contemporaries such as Spoek Mathambo with whom she has worked. One of them, 2008’s Eclectica: Episodes in Purple earned her a Juno Award nomination for Best R&B Recording in 2009 for the King Britt-produced Money.

Every Opposite’s diverse cast of producers – Kenyan producer Wawesh (Just a Band), South London production team LV, and Canada’s Ghanaian Rich Kidd (Drake, K-Os, Redman) – all help to consolidate a quality pan-global record set to raise the bar for South African cultural exports.

*Words from the official press release for Zaki Ibrahim’s Every Opposite Album Launch in Johannesburg, S.A. on June 4th, 2012.

For more dope photos by @cvarin, check out http://www.connervarinblog.com/

THEY’LL NEVER TAKE US ALIVE

BIKER BOYS FROM MARS

WORDS: Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, excerpt from Class Struggle in Africa (New York: International Publishers, 1970)

IMAGES: Leeroy Jason, photographer based in Johannesburg, South Africa (*captions by Jason)

GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE

In spite of Africa’s socio-economic and political diversity it is possible to discern certain common political, social and economic conditions and problems. These derive from traditional past, common aspirations, and from shared experience under imperialism, colonialism and neocolonialism.

THE SALUTE

There is no part of the continent which has not known oppression and exploitation, and no part which remains outside the processes of the African Revolution.

MY SHADOW IS STUCK IN POVERTY, I’M GROWING OUT OF IT…

To facilitate exploitation, colonialism hampered social and cultural progress in the colonies. Friction between tribes was in some cases deliberately encouraged when it served to strengthen the hands of colonial administrators.

THE SILENT SIGHS

In this colonialist situation, African workers regarded the colonialists, foreign firms and foreign planters, as the exploiters. Thus their class struggle became in the first instance anti-imperialist, and not directed against the indigenous bourgeoisie. It is this which has been responsible in some degree for the relatively slow awakening of the African worker and peasant to the existence of their true class enemy – the indigenous bourgeoisie.


At the core of the problem is the class struggle. Class divisions in modern African society became blurred to some extent during the pre-independence period, when it seemed there was national unity and all classes joined forces to eject the colonial power. This led some to proclaim that there were no class divisions in Africa, and that the communalism and egalitarianism of traditional African society made any notion of a class struggle out of the question.


But the exposure of this fallacy followed quickly after independence, when class cleavages which had been temporarily submerged in the struggle to win political freedom reappeared, often with increased intensity, particularly in those states where the newly independent government embarked on socialist policies.


Inequality can only be ended by the abolition of classes. The division between those who plan, organize and manage, and those who actually perform the manual labour, continually recreates the class system. The individual usually finds it very difficult, if not impossible, to break out of the sphere of life into which he is born; and even where there is “equality of opportunity”, the underlying assumption of inequality remains, where the purpose of “opportunity” is to aspire to a higher level in a stratified society.

BEING IN 3 PLACES AT ONCE

For the African bourgeoisie, the class which thrived under colonialism, is the same class which is benefiting under the post-independence, neocolonial period. Its basic interest lies in preserving capitalist social and economic structures. It is, therefore, in alliance with international monopoly finance capital and neocolonialism, and in direct conflict with the African masses, whose aspirations can only be fulfilled through scientific socialism.

STREET ANGELS

Many members of the African bourgeoisie are employed by foreign firms and have, therefore, a direct financial stake in the continuance of the foreign economic exploitation of Africa. They are mesmerized by capitalist institutions and organizations. They ape the way of life of their old colonial masters, and are determined to preserve the status and power inherited from them.

But on the credit side, a new grass roots political leadership emerged during the independence struggle. This was based on worker and peasant support, and committed not only to the winning of political freedom but to a complete transformation of society.


This struggle still continues.

REMIX: Funky Fabrics for the Feet

If the OHEMA OHENE footwear collection’s got you all hot + bothered, turn some of that restless energy into remixing your kicks with some summer print flava. What do you need to complete this creative journey? A yard or less of bright patterned fabric, scissors, glue, a sponge brush and a little thing called inspiration.

Hey, we got you. See this how-to video on rehabbing your shoes from tired + boring to fly + funky:

Check out the beautimous creations below. After finishing your fabric redesign, shoot us an email at accra.alt@gmail.com and we’ll share your natty style on our blog.

OSBORN DESIGN x BOXING KITTEN

OSBORN DESIGN x BOXING KITTEN

SNEAKER FREAK: The Ohema Ohene Fix

WE’RE GOING CUCKOO FOR FUFU over these hot new sneaks by Brixton design boutique – Ohema Ohene. The mix between a structured hi-top, bright colorful prints, textured contrasts and low-top flexibility makes this design fresh and seductive.

Abenaa Pokua‘s Spring/Summer 2012 footwear collection is all urban African swag – a brilliant remix in adaptation + reconstruction.

THE TRIPTYCH TRIPS OUT BROOKLYN

Image

by ROBIN RISKIN for ACCRA [dot] ALT RADIO

SANFORD BIGGERS: I am actually a Japanese artist wearing the mask of a Black man manufactured by a White person to look like your idea of a rapper.

The Brooklyn Museum was buzzing on Thursday night, May 24th. Creatives from all over New York City were decked out in their flyest Afro-prints and chunky glasses, gathered for the screening of The Triptych, the latest documentary film series by Terence Nance, presented by Afro-Punk Pictures and the Weeksville Heritage Center.

TERENCE NANCE: When you need something done, you often look to hire people, but you forget that your friends are capable, creative people, and often make the best team.

You may know Nance, Triptych’s Director, and Shawn Peters, Director of Photography, from their collaboration with Blitz the Ambassador on the short film Native Sun (2011), a 20-minute audio-visual treat shot in Ghana. The two also directed the recent Sundance premiere, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty. The Triptych offers a bit more narrative than these abstract delights, but is equally wacky, magical, and visually delicious.

WANGECHI MUTU: The Kikuyu religion that spoke to me was overtaken by Christianity. You had to be Christian in order to be a part of modernity.

The Triptych highlights the work of artists Sanford Biggers, Wangechi Mutu, and Barron Claiborne. The twenty-minute assemblages of interviews, artworks, photographs, text, and abstraction blur the line between life and art, reality and representation. The three profiles, works of art in themselves, are clever, challenging, and laugh-out-loud funny.

BARRON CLAIBORNE: I know how people see me and I know I’m nothing like it. Blackness is an illusion.

CLAIBORNE: “Person” comes from “persona” which means mask…. I’m not really at war with anything. I don’t really care. I just want to do what I want.

BIGGERS: Black black black quack post-black. The way blackness is scrutinized on a daily basis, it fucks your head up. It’s not about the mask, but what’s behind it. The duality ingrained in society and the various avatars within yourself.

The conversations invite us to explore the experiences and observations behind Biggers’s subversive performance and installation pieces, Mutu’s mythical collage creatures, and Claiborne’s beautiful and wry photographs.

WANGECHI MUTU: My creations are mythical, magical, beyond human.

BIGGERS: As an artist, I find history like a sculptural material – malleable – the meanings reassembled to make new features.

The shorts are the first in what promises to be a vibrant and significant series. Nance and Claiborne, Co-Director, conceived the project together, expanded to include Mutu and Biggers, and will continue to chronicle the work, lives, and practices of some of the freshest visual artists today.

NANCE, BIGGERS, MUTU + CLAIBORNE CHOP SHOP

After the films closed, the wit and humor continued through a Q&A led by Ghanaian journalist and writer Esther Armah. The group of four friends could not stop laughing, even while engaging complex racial and socio-historical theory. They touched upon commonalities in the way they embrace grayness and reject binaries of black and white. They addressed the strong family influences that have pushed them in their work, and the challenges they still face in the art market despite their success. Claiborne said that while artists like Damien Hirst have mastered how to monetize their work, many of those who have been labeled as Black artists are still figuring it out. As the audience geared up for applause, Claiborne winked, “Now everyone should pay me $100 on their way out, meet you in the lobby.”

FILMMAKER SAM KESSIE x RAHIEM OF GRANDMASTER FLASH

As if the three gorgeous films and a brilliant Q&A were not enough, the after-party did not disappoint. The artists and filmmakers stuck around to chat with audience-members, while Eclectic Method projected rap video remixes against the glass entrance. Claiborne kept his camera going the whole night, making live art portraits in front of his signature bright print screen.

YASIIN BEY aka THE ARTIST FORMERLY KNOWN AS MOS DEF

Celebrity spottings included Mos Def a.k.a. Yasiin Bey, Rahiem of Grandmaster Flash, Ghanaian filmmaker Sam Kessie and Rwandan electropop singer Iyadede aka “That Girl from Africa.”

IYADEDE, SAM KESSIE + ROBIN RISKIN POSE UP

Good thing Brooklyn’s finest photographers were out to capture the fabulous evening. It was one dope night of art, film, and music…and should be just the first of many.

*photos + words by Robin Riskin aka @rriskinitall