27 December 2020 – 15 February 2021

Stations of Protest

Joseph Abbey-Mensah
Arinzechukwu Patrick
Nana Danso
Bright Ackwerh
Hamzah Moshood
Latifah Iddriss
Keren Lasme
Nana Yaw Oduro
Samira Saidi
Yasmine Iddriss
Kwasi Darko
An exhibition of Film posters, Barbering and Salon Signages from the collection of Dr. Joseph Oduro-Frimpong

The paintings that are in the exhibition come from Dr. Joseph Oduro-Frimpong’s collection. Analogous to his academic research, Dr. Oduro-Frimpong collects hand-painted film posters, barbering and salon shop signages. These works are advertisement materials and belong to the vibrant visual pop-culture in Ghana, a genre that includes tro-tro signages and decorative paintings on shop fronts, and kiosks. The works were produced by artists from Sign-painting workshops. Artists whose works are included in the exhibition are Alpha and Omega, Awal Shetty, Billy, C.A Wisely, D.A Jasper, Faith Art, Leonardo Arts and O.A. Heavy-J.

The works have two elements: figurative painting and text. In the tradition of the Sign-painting workshops, apprenticeship is an institutionalised way of learning. The film posters retain the detail driven style of the coastal sign-painters. The salon and barbering signages, on the other hand, have been painted with thinly applied strokes which are associated with artists from the middle belt.

In the 1ate 1980s, economic fortune was getting worse in Ghana and the government heavily defunded filmmaking. But as the video format became widely available in cinemas, eager would-be filmmakers saw a new possibility. They began experimenting with home video equipment in making commercial movies. And so, in a period of national economic downturn, the cinema business boomed with the film posters as accomplices. The resulting movie industries including the English-speaking movies and Kumawood blossomed well into the early 2000s. 

The text on the salon and barbering signages sometimes lift from Street Philosophy. The title of the exhibition Suɔmɔ Hi Fe Shika, a Ga phrase, translates as Love is better than Money.  That view is ubiquitous in Ghanaian pop-culture. An easy recollection will be Kakaiku's Guitar Band’s Highlife song titled Odo Ye De Sen Sika.

The textural becomes a way of exerting commentaries. These commentaries range from religious sentiments to general life observations. Dr. Oduro-Frimpong, the collector, participates in this vernacular language when he commissions artists to make signages like Say No to Brazilian Hair.  

For the audience whose earlier lives might have interacted with these archives, the works become monuments. Of nostalgia. Of entrepreneurship. Of pain, sometimes. It becomes a cultural method with which to think. In essence, what is being suggested is the same as when John Berger says he presents you with one thing in order to talk about something else entirely.

One way of thinking about this is to consider the placeness from which these works were originally intended to function that is the cinema, barbering shops and salons. At the cinema, we get entertained. We dream. We cry.  In the barbering shops and salons, we consider the politics of hair and beauty.

Here is a suggestion. May you take this exhibition as a theatre of our making. And dream a little.

Joseph Abbey-Mensah

I am Joseph Abbey-Mensah from Ghana and a graduate from the University of Ghana. Sarf Bort is a pseudonym for my art. I am from a community that consists of rich tradition and culture, so art has always been a part of upbringing. I grew a fond interest in expressing my imaginations through pictures and it has been one of my channels ever since. I view each picture I create like a manifestation. It is like seeing magic occur in real time because it first begins as a thought that gathers several ideas and presents itself in my mind’s eye and then after, I am able to see it manifest in real life through photography.

Every image is a representation of how I think. Being a creative fascinates me even at the end of the day, one unique thing about me is that I do not view my art as the artist, I view it like everyone else, every admiration and every critique I do well to contribute to also. I am flooded with some many ideas every day and to see most of them come to life is simply fascinating. It is hard to put a technique to it because it all takes place in my mind. I like to style my subjects and place them in such a way to bring out the exact replica of my ideas. I am deeply inspired by nature and the culture that surrounds me.

Twitter ––– Instagram ––– Facebook ––– LinkedIn
Nubuke Foundation, Accra 2022