Unseen images by JK Bruce-Vanderpuije are a glimpse of life in 20th-century Ghana

Late Ghanaian photographer JK Bruce-Vanderpuije’s works are on show at Efie Gallery in Dubai, offering a vision of a nation across the decades

Black and white photo of smiling couple, part of JK Bruce-Vanderpuije exhibition at Efie Gallery
(Image credit: Courtesy of Deo Gratias Studio and Efie Gallery, Dubai)

‘JK Bruce-Vanderpuije's remarkable vision offers us a window to the beauty, culture and daily life of a Ghana that once was,’ says Kwame Mintah, director of Efie Gallery, Dubai, which co-presents unseen photographs from the late Ghanaian photographer (1899–1989). ‘In this prolific photographer’s works, we discover not only his genius as a practitioner and innovator but also the evolution of Ghanaian culture and identity over the 20th century.’

‘Unveiling the Shadows of the Past: JK Bruce-Vanderpuije – The Hidden Icon of Photography in Africa’

Black and white photograph by JK Bruce-Vanderpuije, part of Efie Gallery Dubai exhibition

JK Bruce-Vanderpuije, Mobile Service Station (1950s). Fine art archival paper

(Image credit: Courtesy of Deo Gratias Studio and Efie Gallery Dubai)

Looking back on a career that spanned seven decades, the exhibition of Bruce-Vanderpuije’s works is at Dubai’s Efie Gallery until 20 February 2024, curated by Ethiopian artist Aïda Muluneh, after previously being showcased at 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London last year.

The ‘forgotten forefather of 20th-century African photography’ captured his nation's history from boxing culture to marriage rituals, colonial Gold Coast to independence, with images dating back to the 1920s.

People harbourside watching planes. Image from JK Bruce-Vanderpuije exhibition at Efie Gallery Dubai

JK Bruce-Vanderpuije, Tema fishing harbour (1958). Fine art archival paper

(Image credit: Courtesy of Deo Gratias Studio and Efie Gallery Dubai)

Over the course of three years, the works have been restored by Bruce-Vanderpuije’s granddaughter Kate Tamakloe, and now have a permanent home at the Deo Gratias studio (founded by Bruce-Vanderpuije in 1922) in Accra.

The Dubai exhibition chronicles an authentic narrative of West Africa, and showcases glimpses of daily life across the decades.

Black and white wedding photo

JK Bruce-Vanderpuije, Colonial Wedding (1930s). Fine art archival paper

(Image credit: Courtesy of Deo Gratias Studio and Efie Gallery Dubai)

‘The process of restoring my grandfather’s photographs has been a labour of love over the past three years, enabling us to reflect upon Ghana’s history with a fresh perspective,’ reflects Tamakloe. ‘The photographs continue to teach us new things about life and society during his time. As the custodian of my grandfather’s estate, my work with Efie Gallery is an important step forward in preserving his legacy and sharing it with the public.’

J. K. Bruce-Vanderpuije, and Efie Gallery Dubai

JK Bruce-Vanderpuije, Accra Ice Company Ltd (1940s). Fine art archival paper

(Image credit: Courtesy of Deo Gratias Studio and Efie Gallery Dubai)

The contemporary art gallery, founded by Ghanaian family Valentina, Kwame and Kobi Mintah, focuses on the representation and advancement of artists of African origin (‘Efie’ is Twi for ‘home’), and promotes the cross-cultural dialogue between African artists and communities across the world.

Archive photo of people lined up with paddles

JK Bruce-Vanderpuije, Elder Dempster Line (1960). Fine art archival paper

(Image credit: Courtesy of Deo Gratias Studio and Efie Gallery Dubai)

J. K. Bruce-Vanderpuije, and Efie Gallery Dubai

JK Bruce-Vanderpuije, Three Young Men (1930s). Fine art archival paper

(Image credit: Courtesy of Deo Gratias Studio and Efie Gallery Dubai)

J. K. Bruce-Vanderpuije, and Efie Gallery Dubai

JK Bruce-Vanderpuije, Achimota School Boxing Club (1933). Fine art archival paper

(Image credit: Courtesy of Deo Gratias Studio and Efie Gallery Dubai)

J. K. Bruce-Vanderpuije, and Efie Gallery Dubai

JK Bruce-Vanderpuije, Telephonist at their Exchange (1940s). Fine art archival paper

(Image credit: Courtesy of Deo Gratias Studio and Efie Gallery Dubai)

J. K. Bruce-Vanderpuije, and Efie Gallery Dubai

JK Bruce-Vanderpuije, Market Street (1940s). Fine art archival paper

(Image credit: Courtesy of Deo Gratias Studio and Efie Gallery Dubai)

J. K. Bruce-Vanderpuije, and Efie Gallery Dubai

JK Bruce-Vanderpuije, Brook Tea (1961). Fine art archival paper

(Image credit: Courtesy of Deo Gratias Studio and Efie Gallery Dubai)

‘Unveiling the Shadows of the Past: JK Bruce-Vanderpuije - The Hidden Icon of Photography in Africa’ is on show until 20 February 2024 at Efie Gallery

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Tianna Williams is the Editorial Executive at Wallpaper*. Before joining the team in 2023, she has contributed to BBC Wales, Ford UK, SurfGirl Magazine, and Parisian Vibe, with work spanning from social media content creation to editorial. Now, her role covers writing across varying content pillars for Wallpaper*.