Subject to critical and market speculation since it began, Ghana’s current art boom began to expand globally in about 2015. In the wake of the international success of artists including Boafo, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, Serge Attukwei Clottey and Kwesi Botchway, other artists have joined in creating a body of black portraiture that is changing representation in painting. In the words of Crystal Yayra Anthony: “What we are doing now is shining light on who we actually are. Because of things like Black Lives Matter and movements going on in the world, more eyes, or more people are open to listening to us, instead of just selling the stereotype that is already out there.” In creating a body of work that redresses the dearth of images of people of colour in art these artists are capturing a moment in time and in showing the full breadth of people living around them they are showing the true face of Accra to the world. This diverse group of artists shares a passion for bucking stereotypes to allow their culture to be truly seen.
While the Ghanatta School of Art and Design no longer exists, its legacy remains. It was there that graduates Boafo, Quaicoe and Botchway began to rethink contemporary painting, combining elements of the western canon with a contemporary take on African art traditions. Mixing the democratising thinking behind Realism and Impressionism with the profoundly subconscious composition and colour of African Modernism, these artists have created a movement that adds to the richness of its history. This thinking has gone on to inspire a number of trained and self-taught artists, some of whom would never have considered a career in art. The result is a capturing of society in Accra now through the eyes of artists who are just beginning to be internationally known, in tandem with the global art community turning to look at what is happening in the city. From many different walks of life and backgrounds this group of artists quite literally paints a picture of modern Accra.
Ohene brings the black interior to the surface on his subjects, Anthony’s expressive nudes, often placed in nature, hark back to a pre-colonial relationship with nudity. Tawiah’s touching portraits of difference combine paint and fabric, Borlabi’s thoughtful figures and muted tones bring a different register to the group, while Affotey’s bold contrasts and powerful gazes have a unique power. These artists communicate a shared credo through their varied practices. “It’s not a movement and it’s not a trend,” says Annan Affotey. This exhibition is not only a showcase of exciting painting, but is also a testament to the solidarity and support these artists show each other. Part of a new chapter in the history of art made in Africa, these works are a tantalising glimpse of what is yet to come.
Text source: UK’s New Exhibitions