Across Africa, creative hubs are emerging, but Ghana’s artists and photographers are setting the nation’s creative scene apart. Since 2015, Manju Journal, a pan-African digital platform founded by Richmond Orland Mensah, has championed the visibility and celebration of talents from across the diaspora, but those of Ghana in particular. So it felt natural for Orland Mensah to create an art book that documents Ghanaian creative viewpoints, spanning different generations and time.
‘The book came about through meetings with the publisher, Twenty Four Thirty Six,’ Orland Mensah says. ‘We wanted to collaborate on a book about Ghana. During lockdown, they had noticed how many creatives and artists they followed on social media posted the Ghanaian flag in their bio, and then also how many Ghanaians were leading London's creative scene, including Edward Enninful, Ozwald Boateng and Ekow Eshun.’ (Wallpaper* contributing editor Eshun is curator of ‘In and Out of Time’, at Gallery 1957 in Accra, Ghana, until 12 December 2023.)
Voices: Ghana’s artists in their own words
The book became Voices: Ghana’s artists in their own words, a focus on Ghana’s visual art scene. ‘Putting together the book wasn’t easy: 80 interviews or more were made online and in person as the focus was to have these creative voices speak about their works and experiences, while also giving [them] room to speak about other Ghanaian creatives who had inspired their works,’ Orland Mensah said.
‘We would like this book to be a great introduction to what's happening in Ghana, but also importantly in Africa. Because, while this book focuses on Ghana's art scene and creative community, we really hope that it will encourage people to explore more contemporary African artists, galleries and curators. We would love this book to help push modern African art and creativity from being othered to being completely mainstream. It's a total celebration of a very beautiful time and community.’
The contemporary cultural ‘youthquake’ on the African continent is one worth reckoning with; the past two decades haven’t only seen the sprouting of talents but the international visibility of talents across industries, and while they try to become a force in the global space, one thing is for sure – they try to leverage their cultural background, keeping in mind the continent’s rich creative hub.
This is a vision Orland Mensah shares, as someone who is something of a cultural custodian. ‘The art scene is thriving and I’m very hopeful to see more institutional change and support. It’s important to see how young, up-and-coming artists and newly graduated students are now taking art as a full-time job or profession, unlike before,’ he says. ‘The newly established galleries, institutions and art residencies such as the Nubuke Foundation, Noldor Artist Residency, Gallery 1957 and the Dot Ateliers by artist Amoako Boafo, among others, are all collectively supporting and nurturing the next generation of Ghanaian artists. But there’s still more to do; we cannot have this celebration of the country’s creative scene without ensuring important conversations, support and infrastructure systems are put in place to support creatives.’
Voices: Ghana’s artists in their own words is published by Twenty Four Thirty Six,
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Ugonna-Ora Owoh is a journalist and editor based in Lagos, Nigeria. He writes on arts, fashion, design, politics and contributes to Vogue, New York Times, Wallpaper, Wepresent, Interior Design, Foreign Policy and others.
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