Showing posts with label ghana. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ghana. Show all posts

Friday, 21 September 2018

Barima Photography Exhibition: London, 21st - 22nd September, 2018

Dear all,

   Digital Storyteller and Content Creator Barima-Edusei Owusu-Nyantekyi cordially invites you to a private viewing of new art photography works at the A4X Photography Showcase at the Old Brompton Gallery, London, on Friday 21st September at 18:30 to 21:00. This dynamic pop-up will then open for one day on Saturday, 22nd September at 11:00 and conclude that night at 21:00

   To welcome you all, I'll be co-hosting Friday evening's PV and make myself available to discuss my 3 displayed pieces, which are taken from series photographed in London and Accra, printed and signed on fine art paper, and hung in customised framing. Each piece is a limited edition and is available at a price exclusive to all attendees of the show. I will also be available during Saturday, depending on the timing of your visit

   I'm most excited to join this small group of diverse, emerging talents for the weekend and would be delighted to introduce you to see how I view the world of my two upbringings: the vibrancy of Ashanti-Ghanaian culture juxtaposed against the open mystery of the British capital. Please RSVP to me and I will add your names to A4's guestlist. I look forward to seeing you there!



Sunday, 15 April 2018

BON Voyages Accra: Gallery 1957 Presents Bright Ackwerh & Michael Soi in "Almost True"


   More and more, it seems to me that the "Wakanda Moment" of the post-Black Panther cultural landscape is characterised by opportunism, albeit less so by facile social buzzwords and more by the idea that the world may be ready to take Africa more seriously in creative terms, a Moment whose legs last longest as long as we ourselves are willing to carry them on our own broad backs

   How else to account for the turnout of the young and clued-up hashtag generation at this week's opening of "Almost True" by Bright Ackwerh of Ghana and Michael Soi of Kenya at the Kempinski Hotel Accra's Gallery 1957, which thronged from the dental surgery-whites of the main space to the spacious foyer beyond it, floors overlaid with sturdy tarp and duct tape to combat the dark side of every art gallerist's party favour, the open bar. In Ghanaian society, this level of public enthusiasm remains outmatched only by weddings, flash mobs and funerals

   That said, never underestimate the Ghanaian desire for a few good  schadenfreudian laughs, a facet that these two painters more than cater for. Soi's traditional canvas paintings, supplemented by printed bags and accessories, may have juxtaposed a tad glaringly with Ackwerh's detailed digital caricatures, but then the synergy in appealing group shows lies not only in the imagery but the messages as well. Even if one had not read the press release, a cursory scan of both sets of work unveils satirical meanings that are both caustic and cautionary, with the target range filling the further I crossed the room

All works by Michael Soi

   Soi's ponderings on Ghana and China's "special relationship," (to paraphrase Warren Ellis, we're simply choosing the face of the powers that are screwing us next) and now #metoo-relevant sexual assaults perpetrated by the kind of holy men who may have cash machines installed at work landed well, albeit with a familiarity that was possibly a little too comfortable in aesthetics if not subject matter. As one working in copywriting and marketing, I know there's sometimes a necessary utility in a traditional and obvious delivery, but I've also built Mode Parade and even my fine art / commercial photography practice on the juxtaposition and tensions the analogue-digital collision often results in

All works by Bright Ackwerh

it was Ackwerh who ultimately generated more discussion when I solicited opinions in the post-show carousing that followed. Digital art is  relatively new territory for Ghana, despite the prevalence of overly Photoshopped wedding and advertising photography, which only really surprises if one forgets that this is part of a continent known for diminishing or eradicating its own traditions to slavishly follow the mores of the West. Ackwerh's commentary is ripped-from-the-headlines unsubtle and he gladly professes a love of popular culture, but damn it if his results aren't amusing and biting. For one, he puts stories and faces to his works, from Presidents Akufo Addo and Macron to Kanye West's 'Famous' video, whilst indulging in a parodic bent that goes as far as to recontextualise Queen Elizabeth II becoming the world's longest reigning monarch following the 2017 resignation of Robert Mugabe - a man she once awarded a knighthood to - as a storyline from Game of Thrones

   Whilst my thoughts may seem rather measured, it's to its credit that "Almost True" makes no bones about its intent. This isn't an environment in which subtlety is recognised and rewarded - it's one in which Soi and Ackwerh have embarked on careers that invite familial disdain, conservative condescension and constant self-reflection in a way that is less notable in the likes of Britain, Germany and America. Choosing their marks and shouting out loud at them isn't a bug. It's exactly what they need to be doing to make their presences known and their opinions concrete

Bright Ackwerh with friends

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Fragments of the Mind: Travel in Ghana

Image taken by myself for Barima Photography with a Sony Alpha A7ii with an Olympus Zuiko 50mm legacy lens

   Four years mark the time between my visits to Accra, capital city of Ghana, which, as a British-born and based Ghanaian, gave me much to engage with and celebrate today. The speed with which life in Accra has continued to adapt Westernisms gathered pace over the second tenure of the previous governing administration, thumbing its nose at the infamous, attendant "Dumsor" period: four years of electrical load shedding that plunged the country into continual blackouts and challenged the normally irrepressible megawatt smiles of its people. Thankfully, Dumsor's effects were much less felt when I visited Accra at the end of 2016. Indeed, the city bore the hallmarks of the Christmas seasons I remember from my lifelong family visits - glamour to make the West End of London resemble a Tuesday night in Stoke; moreish banquets of jollof rice, grilled meats and peppery stews; parties commencing at midnight and genuinely all-ages dancefloors at 2am in clubs, streets or at home

   Still, I found constant reminders of Accra's new face, with most billboards (Ghana's primary mode of advertising) bearing rendered announcements of town house and apartment developments stretching all around the metropolis. The previously completed offerings impress to this day - the multifunctional Vilaggio development, situated minutes from Kotoka Airport, affords the best view of Accra for miles, which I took in from its alluring Sky Bar. This aspect, along with its live music programme made me something of a regular during my stay  - despite the appetite for Afrobeat that informs many travellers, Accra's live musical lifeblood remains jazz, which Sky Bar, +233 and Table Bay Bar deliver to local acclaim. However, though heartened to see my family's homeland galvanised (literal prayers to improve road quality and safety over the years have begun to be answered, for one), I couldn't help but sense an incoming loss of Tropical Modernism, the European-led architecture that met Ghana's heat and dust with airy and rational spatial solutions, in favour of anonymous neo-classical or exuberantly adventurous glass-and-steel designs that veered from overly busy to curiously unformed and, on occasion, aesthetically bland

   With the end of the working week came the expected opportunities for getaways and I chose to spend time with my pampering relatives in Kumasi, Ghana's second city and home of the resplendent King of the Ashanti people, Otumfuo Osei-Tutu II, every inch a traditional tribal institution in a modern world. Whilst the general mood was reflective due to the recent passing of the King's mother, Nana Afia Kobi Serwaa Ampem II, the Queen Mother, Kumasi's homely, elegant atmosphere offered a calming antidote to Accra's mixture of business pace and unending traffic. So too did a later trip to Aburi, a mountainous region overlooking Accra, affording me another breathtaking view of a city that positively shines as the dusk sets in

Also captured for Barima Photography with a Sony Alpha A7ii with an SMC Takumar 28mm legacy lens

Monday, 30 August 2010

Akwapim Hills

   Aburi, one of Ghana's cuter townships, is favoured as a weekend retreat from the pulse-pounding bustle of Accra and its ever-fractal traffic. It nestles amongst the Akwapim Hills, which provide the benefits of a reasonably high and pleasant altitude, as well as a more moderate temperature. One easily feels at home in tailored linen, mohair, ramie or cotton, reclining on the porch of one of the various colonial or neo-Ghanaian residential forms that dot the area

   The area seems to offer more than one different viewpoint: ex-pats from various walks visit often to meet, discuss, broker and recline. The cleaner air may be more conducive to bonhomie and reason - perhaps it is provable by science

   I just go for the air. And the abandonment

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Outfit - More of The Same

   Another vintage-based ensemble, another Ghanaian wedding, and so it goes:

   With a bonus tribute to The O'Jays (because we would need two more to comprise a Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes homage):

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Print Run

   A sampling of our market-sold fabrics; these prints are intrinsic to the Ghanaian style of dress and cloth wear

   In more finely wrought materials, one could use these to great effect as idiosyncratic upholstery. There's a drawing room in need of these, somewhere:

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The Talent Embargo

For I saw this and had high hopes

   Over the weekend, I attended the presentation of a number of indigenous fashion lines as a guest of my cousin, a dressmaker and cutter of no small aptitude herself. Constantly in thrall to my own cultivated cynicism, I nevertheless recognised it as an opportunity to potentially overturn The Dearth that characterises the stylistic modes here. For you see, there is usually more than one way around the pernicious effects of limited resources – I find a large helping of imagination in a vigorous threesome with refinement and wit often carries the day

   I’d certainly venture that selecting the relatively lengthy poolside at an ostensibly five star hotel next to a more appealing beach and serving questionable sparkling alcohol and something I believe to be called “Vitamilk” was some wag’s idea of a gag. The mode parade for the evening consisted of collections from Ghanaian – and the odd passing Nigerian – designers looking to balance the worlds of Necessity and Interest – which is to say, the worlds of Commerce and Craft, which would account for the spectacle of garment-based identity crises I saw. Now, Ghana is mostly a conservative society but when its sons and daughters approach “Baller” status, aesthetic modesty and restraint don’t enter into the uninhibited dive into profligacy that follows. They like it bold, flamboyant and often as tacky as possible, like citizens of most other countries with higher social positions and gatherings that they don’t truly know how to appear for. The difference is that there is a filter missing here that prevents questionable ensembles from appearing as the only option (then again, an import copy of Vogue costs the equivalent of almost £20)

   This attention to decorum applies to organisational structures, for whilst we arrived over an hour late, expecting to miss the speeches and emerge straight into the catwalk, we discovered that there was still another 20 minutes of oratory to be seated for. Also unanticipated was the revelation that the sashaying we were about to witness came with auctioneering as the designers sought different ways to raise their orders (the "Chinese - or was it Indian? - Auction" we later witnessed, which was predicated on the bidders paying the difference between their bid and that of the previous bidder, only sprang to life when the MC raised the bid to a more favourable level, leaving him holding the purse strings for 77 cedis (around $60) in the process)

   There’s always an alarm bell that rings when one attends an invite-only event in Ghana that is non-payable and yet asks for money anyway – there is always a tendency to presume that everyone, no matter what function they are serving in their invited capacity, is Rich. And in a culture that encourages the hire of dancers who expect guests to pay them on the spot, such is anathema to good will, which does help to explain why High Society here is partially founded on peacocking, inverse snobbery and bitchiness

   Even the young fellows proffering distinct shirts, redolent as they were of the long cut, Mandarin collared confections of prime Pierre Cardin, responded to my innocent inquiries about their range, pricing and collection with requests for my phone number – “I’d really feel more comfortable if I had [it]” – and my measurements. The pricing and detailing certainly proved to me that I was on firmer ground with the likes of W.W. Chan and Turnbull & Asser

   Meanwhile, it seemed the intent was that the event be timestretched for as long as possible. Whilst the organisers may have been in thrall to the hotel to add publicity, this was still a mistake, for they were to show enough collections to fill around 3 hours at the least, interspersed with auctions and without recourse to respite. I’ve never been a captive audience member when I can help it, so suffice to say, I left once I’d seen enough. Even so, my critical eye had much to take in

   I don’t demand craft on the level of a Saint Laurent or a Mainbocher or a Watanabe but I’d be curious as to how many women desire to be draped in long, bright yellow gowns with a transparent ribbon panel across the thighs and ornamental bobbles that resemble the haute couture fantasies of a Cantonments prostitute (“ashawo”) with a curious fetish for 1970s British lampshades, nor overly long dresses that sweep the ground with the efficiency of a cleaning unit, the grace of an exuberant shaggy dog moving on its joints and the freedom to hit any and all snags between leaving the bedroom and descending the stairs. Similarly, what male tailoring was displayed delighted in unorthodox cuts but lacked a true intuition in the patterns to create pieces that complemented even the mostly athletic models parading them, whilst continuing to perpetuate the grotesque myth that high shirt collars are flattering to the physiques of African men – our “length cliché” does not at all apply to our necks

   Speaking of which, the choice of models ran the gamut from acceptable to bizarre. Whilst some wholeheartedly captured the android/gynoid inflections intrinsic to this line of work, others interpreted swaggering as shambling and I may never be able to scrub the image of the girl who was half gazelle, half freeloading, bellicose alcoholic from my memories. I remain uncertain as to whether the 5'5" male model was involved to fulfill a proportional representation of some sort, but clothing him in double pleated trousers was perhaps the least of his ensemble's inadequacies. Also to their detriment was the coordination that required one model to wait in full view of the audience for up to 30 seconds at one end of the pool for the other to complete a single walk before taking their turn

   I thought that the magazine sold at the show, “In-Thing Maglogue,” was more valuable than the event itself, primarily because appealing designs could be sought in it, provided I scrutinised closely enough. Priestar Creations, for one, has a certain potential. Nevertheless, this assessment became all the more galling once I’d acquainted myself with various Nigerian labels in 20 minutes of Google searching

   At least I knew where the exits were

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

More Gems of Ghana

   Orleans Designs A/W 2010:

Spicey earthy tones mixed with sharp layers embody the pieces in this  2010 Autumn/Winter JAHAN collection. Orleans Designs continues to contemporise African texutres by fusing it with delicate silks.

Hazel Aggrey-Orleans, the creative force behind the label draws her inspiration from her colourful memories growing up in the culturally dynamic city of Lagos, coupled with her Germanic roots.

West African prints and symbols form the basis of her luxurious silk patterns instead of restricting herself to the traditional cottons.
Of mixed heritage, Hazel has cleverly combined her two worlds into her work. This results in more contemporary garments.

With Hazel’s continued passion for colours, she seeks to create bold unique pieces that cannot be found anywhere else.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Gems of Ghana

   Today, we celebrate our Independence Day - it's 53 years since we went from a colony to a former colony. To commemorate, I've stolen the most interesting fashion material I could discover from Time Out Accra in the name of edification. I got as far as one: Orleans Designs

   Hazel Aggrey-Orleans, who is in fact based in London, produces scarves of silk and dresses, tops and  trousers of vivid colouring and drape, proudly utilising the prints that form part of our native identity and heritage. Their product is playful, coquettish and perceptibly sure of itself; it takes a devil-may-care woman to adorn herself so brightly. Indeed, I look forward to meeting women who do patronise such a proudly homegrown label. The current S/S10 collection is quite the sort of thing that needs to be worn widely outside of Ghana itself; my parents' generation may find it does them proud

   Let's see who will be flying the flag for our artistic side next

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The Dearth

   Throughout the year (and, if canny enough, last year), bloggers, journalists and coolhunters have thrilled and trilled to the exploits of the Congolese Les Sapeurs, the funkily dressed flaneurs not far from this corner of the motherland. They've earnt plaudits from Paul Smith, international press and a book of photography by Daniele Tamagni. And they share my penchant for offbeat elegance. But nothing I can say about them would bring anything new to the Google results one can unearth on the topic

   Ghana doesn't really have any such movement, which would possibly be down to the British, rather than French and Belgian colonial occupation and the comparatively relative lack of adversity, civil strife and sartorial aspiration. Ghana's aspirational spirit is more akin to that of Nigeria in that hip hop and the cues of the African American community set the trends. Perhaps the rapper Cam'ron is responsible for my younger cousin, Charles, juxtaposing a purple shirt with a lilac pearl necklace and black jeans earlier this week. I'm almost sorry that there are no photos

   Business dress is simply subdued, baring a few "fun" shirts here and there. TM Lewin, well established in Nigeria by now, set up shop in the 2-year old Accra Mall last year, whilst labels such as Hawes & Curtis, Gucci and Ferragamo have been available to the successful through importing. Yet rarely is a full suit worn during the day; they come out at night if one's old and important enough and they tend to look like slightly gaudy cousins of the classic American Sack

   The closest cousin to Les Sapeurs here is, of course, my father, who is commissioning around 4 suits per year from a local tailor and producing some rather interesting results that I'll photograph when I receive a new camera. But ultimately, he needs someone to pass the baton to. Someone he's trained and nurtured, whose development he has somehow shaped or guided or influenced

   Someone like me? Watch this space

(Oh, and some of the fashion here will merit some future investigation. I really tease, don't I?)

Monday, 14 December 2009

Gone Motherlanding

   For the next 2 weeks, I'll be here:

   And will be doing a lot of this:

 Via Latter Day Saints

   My internet usage will be rather limited, but if anything post-worthy happens here or in my head, I'll let you know