Ghanaian Artist El Anatsui, First African Appointed at London’s Royal Academy
Ghanaian artist El Anatsui has been appointed honorary academician by London’s Royal Academy. Best-known for his monumental fabrics made with thousands of small metal pieces, he’s the first African to receive the accolade. Question: what does this mean for African art?
The Kwaku Ananse premier in July was everything a film loving crowd would hope for ; great turn out, a participatory crowd and fierce music. The 26 minute short immortalizes the mythical spider by constructing a fresh narrative that retells this famous Ananse tale with multilayered, moody, elliptical shots of a wandering Jojo Abot, who plays Ananse’s daughter. The film suggests that stories normally seen through the lens of post-colonialism could just as easily be seen in existential or mythic terms.
For the record this film had the biggest turn out for an experimental Ghanaian picture, which is a refreshing start. Ghana isn’t known for experimental artsy movies and over the years John Akomfrah has been the only reference when such conversations came up. Our lame claim to his notoriety can stop now.
Akosua Adoma Owusu represents a new wave of filmmakers making bold attempts at disrupting the Ghanaian narrative in order to create new forms of story telling that involve risk taking. Hopefully these risks will explore new audiences and markets that would in turn create Ghanaian cinema the world looks forward to. This Kwaku Ananse story feeds our curiosities and creative interpretations made by the audacious individuals it features.
Grace Omaboe who plays Ananse’s wife has not been in a Ghanaian movie for years. At the height of her career, she was in a very popular TV drama series ‘OBRA’. Then through the mid to late 90′s she had a TV show “By The Fire Side” where she told Ananse stories to children. For the people old enough to remember, this film is like a time machine that travels into that past but tells the story in a sequence far removed from what a Ghanaian audience might be used to.
Another character worth mentioning in the movie is Highlife living legend Agya Koo Nimo who played Kweku Ananse. Koo Nimo brought such character volume to the 26 minute picture, it begged further exploration. That was four months ago, Adoma has since gone on to start new projects, but this is certainly worth the reminder.
We caught up with Akosua Adoma Owusu recently during our STROLLING GOATS episode and talked about film and her new projects.
What first interested you in film?
Well, my background was in the fine arts, specifically, printmaking and sculpture. I discovered my interest in filmmaking after studying 16mm Cinematography at the University of Virginia with an African American filmmaker, Kevin Jerome Everson. Kevin came from a working-class background – I identified with this in Virginia – and his work in experimental short films and traveling to film festivals really inspired me. So I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Film/Video and Art at CalArts against my parents’ wishes. They wanted me to be more practical and pursue a career in medicine like basically all Ghanaian parents. But creating art through a cinematic medium really spoke to me and impassioned me far more than any “practical” choice could have.
Photos by MANTSE ARYEEQUAYE
We continue our CHALE WOTE episode of Strolling Goats in Accra with the rest of the festival’s production crew. Below are more expectations of this year’s edition and thoughts on James Town.
I would say James Town is an urban community that has a lot of interesting places. They also have a lot of interesting things that people always want to see like the beach, the food, the old harbor and a particular type of Highlife music that can only be found in this part of the capital. I’m hoping that through CHALE WOTE young people here will be inspired to embrace education.
Once this happens, everything will change. People here are nice and they make everyone feel welcome. Chale Wote has been a great festival for the community, for us who live here, it’s a way to leave our mark . After this year’s Chale Wote, I hope young people here will be inspired to be creative so they can turn their lives around.
If you have been following us, you are probably familiar with Strolling Goats in Accra- Our photography series that focuses on repurposing spaces within Accra. Well we’ve been on a little hiatus due to all the running around associated with producing a festival as big as CHALE WOTE. The good news is that we are all set to go and our international participants will start arriving next week. We thought it would be great to show you our team in this episode shot in James Town where the festival takes place. Below are quotes about what comes to mind when one thinks about this part of Accra and expectations for this year’s festival. Photos by Mantse Aryeequaye
“Buzzing stinky, better yet e dey be, nice fish. You know, plenty nice kenkey. Chale, buzzing energy.”
“I’m trying to see a bigger, brighter, definitely more dynamic show, and looking forward to all the artists who are coming from out of town and in to town. What am I bringing this year? The rocking energy. Chale, I just hope the future generations are appreciating some of the things that we are putting in place for them. I’m always looking forward to the future. I hope by the time my child is old enough to understand what’s going on, we would have been able to do something that everyone can be proud of.”
I stared in awe – my mind and soul were buried in what lay before me. In my mind’s eye it was so awesome I forgot someone was trying to get my attention. I was fixated with these kids designing kites; they played different roles in the design process by folding papers, sticks and threading kite. One of them drew a prototype of the kite on the pavement with the oldest amongst them cutting and joining paper with broomsticks. The rest were obliged to tie the thread to the kites and test flights.
AKOSUA ADOMA OWUSU’s approach to Ghanaian folklore reconstructs the history of the mythical spider, Kwaku Ananse, in a way that forces a modern day interpretation of stories that have defined Ghanaian storytelling for eons. This Ananse story recreates the old legend through a transformative apparatus that bends and melds storytelling into a new history. Kwaku Ananse premieres in Ghana on July 4th at Alliance Francaise. The film stars Highlife music legend Koo Nimo, veteran actor Grace Omaboe, and Ghanaian indie music artist Jojo Abot, who plays the lead character in the film. Kwaku Ananse has screened at several international film festivals including the Cannes Film Festival and Berlinale. The film also won Best Short Film at the African Movie Academy Awards this Spring and has also been shortlisted at the French Cesar Academy.
by Sionne Neely
AIDA MULUNEH is definitely a force to be reckoned with. The photographer and filmmaker heads up ADDIS FOTO FEST – a biannual, international photography festival in Addis Ababa that brings a diverse cadre of African photographers together to showcase their work [the third installation is Dec 2014]. In direct response to how Ethiopia has been popularly imagined by western development + media agencies since the 1980s, Aida is building an appreciation for photography among the Ethiopian public by re-working how photography takes shape in the country. The festival develops the capacity of emerging Ethiopian photographers to tell their own compelling stories.
I caught up with my fellow Howard U Film Dept. comrade on a recent trip to Accra. Here we rap about Addis Foto Fest and how emerging Ethiopian photographers are in a unique position to transform the country’s visual future.
I fell in love with Angela Davis
In one fell swoop
I was 8 and bored that summer
My daily feen was a focused search through my parents’ awesomely Black book collection
If They Come in the Morning was a treasured favorite
That fro did me in
Her quiet fire spoke it all
Eyes steady, gait straight
Her radical be fly
Fly high, soul hi
Up up to the sky sky
That’s when the whole affair began
It endures for eva eva
Let it rip
Hands up for Prof. Davis
And a Black girl’s fantasia of possibility
SRN | 03.13.13