Ghana's capital, Accra, has seen an explosion in contemporary art in the last fifteen years. Many individuals, institutions, and foundations have contributed to this activity, with exhibitions, site-specific installations and interventions, accessible programming, critical inquiry and writing, digital networks, and social engagement. The art world beyond the country's borders has become increasingly aware of these exciting developments, which have roots in both Accra and Kumasi, home to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). Many acclaimed artists active in Ghana and internationally were educated at KNUST, among them Ablade Glover, El Anatsui, Atta Kwami, Godfried Donkor, Dorothy Amenuke, and Ibrahim Mahama. The role of KNUST's Department of Painting and Sculpture in fueling revolutionary changes in Ghana's contemporary art scene is of particular interest to Nagy as director of an academic art museum, while artists' networks in Accra—with connections to Kumasi—relate to Jordan's work in network theory and digital humanities.
The vitality of the climate around Ghanaian contemporary art was made clear to more than 400 individuals from Africa, Europe, and the Americas who attended the triennial conference of the Arts Council of the African Studies Association (ACASA) in August 2017, the first to be held on the African continent. Participants met many of the artists, faculty, and activists who are driving the changes in Ghana's art scene and heard them speak on panels and round tables. They also visited exhibitions, artists' studios, and the annual Chale Wote street art festival in Accra. Some made an excursion to Kumasi.
The authors, together with Susan Cooksey, curator of African art at the University of Florida's Harn Museum of Art, had witnessed these changes for the first time in August 2016 while visiting Kumasi and Accra to learn about the community of artists, curators, and activists who are changing the dialogue and practice of contemporary art. Cooksey and Nagy had spent time in Ghana on various trips over the years, but on those occasions had studied historically based arts such as kente and adinkra cloth, brass casting, and wood carving. The impetus to return to Ghana in 2016 came from Christopher Richards, who was then a graduate student at UF studying fashion design in Ghana and now teaches at Brooklyn College. He enticed us with accounts of the interesting exhibitions being mounted in Accra by faculty, students, and alumni of the KNUST program. Our research in Accra and Kumasi in 2016 and 2017 was greatly facilitated by a long-time colleague and friend, Gilbert Amegatcher, retired from the art faculty at KNUST, who made available to us his amazing network of connections in Accra and Kumasi.
Since 2003, a transformation of the curriculum in the KNUST Department of Painting and Sculpture has taken place. It is credited to the mold-breaking research, writing, and teaching of kąrî'kạchä seid'ou, whose institutional critique was carried out while he was a PhD student and instructor there.1 His 2006 dissertation, Theoretical Foundations of the KNUST Painting Programme: A Philosophical Inquiry and Its Contextual Relevance in Ghanaian Culture, is closely read by faculty and students at KNUST to this day. seid'ou traces the history of the undergraduate painting program from its origins in the School of Arts and Crafts at Achimoto College in Accra in 1925 up to the first decade of the twenty-first century. The art school transferred in 1952 from Achimoto College to Kumasi as an arm of the Teacher Training Department of the Kumasi College of Technology, which in turn became the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in 1962. In his exhaustively researched history, seid'ou documents a series of curricular reforms through which the school sought to keep pace with reforms in Great Britain and introduce knowledge and command of Western modern art movements and practices to its students. His research demonstrates that the curriculum ossified in the mid-1960s and, despite continuing periodic efforts at reform, did not expose students to developments in international contemporary art practice, theory, and criticism.
As seid'ou recounts, from 1993 to 1996 six students were enrolled in a newly established MFA program, among them Caterina Niklaus, Emmanuel Vincent Essel (Papa Essel), and seid'ou himself. This first group of MFA students was seen as potentially disruptive by most of the faculty for their unconventional approaches to artmaking, such as performance art, text-based works, political cartoons, and interventions in the natural environment. They found a sympathetic and supportive faculty member in Atta Kwami. However, seeing how the pioneering MFA students were scrutinized for their subversive views, the next class of MFA students (1994–1997) reverted to the status quo and were praised by the faculty for adhering to conventional standards of accepted subjects—still life, landscape, the human figure, and narrative scenes—and accepted Western-derived styles such as realism, pointillism, surrealism, and cubism (seid'ou 2006: 160).
When seid'ou returned to the college as a PhD student in 2001 and was then appointed as a lecturer in 2003, he began to reshape the curriculum through his innovative pedagogy. Practicing what he has described as “a form of ironic over-identification with the subject of critique” (seid'ou 2014: 111), he brought to bear his knowledge of philosophy, history, art history, literary and art criticism, international contemporary art practices, and statistical analysis. He found that the faculty of art still employed academic methods of instruction that emphasized mastery of linear perspective, chiaroscuro, foreshortening, and a narrow range of subjects and styles. They prioritized preparing students for jobs, teaching them to paint decorative murals for public buildings, serve as art teachers, or work as designers in industry. In addition, seid'ou identifies what he calls a “hidden curriculum assumption” that prioritizes commercial marketability: “[P]ortable (potentially saleable) painting of sole authorship expressing the genius of the individual artist is the legitimate artistic creation most worth teaching or pursuing” (seid'ou 2006: 295). Suppressed or underemphasized in the curriculum were goals for students to develop critical thinking skills, interrogate existing models of art making, and imagine alternative models (seid'ou 2006: 222).
After limited success with some new approaches to teaching figure drawing, seid'ou took a more radical approach with his design of the final year drawing classes that he taught from 2003–2005. He assigned students to explore the city of Kumasi and while doing so to write down their thoughts and impressions, thinking that this would help them to articulate their ideas during class critiques. He assigned readings such as Roland Barthe's Mythologies and encouraged students also to read novels and poems to stimulate their imaginations. All this was intended to create a discursive forum through which each student would develop a personal iconography, recognizing that everyday objects and events could be read as meaningful signs (seid'ou 2006: 270–74). Although seid'ou identifies some problems with the outcomes of these experimental drawing classes, they formed the basis for some core concepts underpinning the curriculum of the KNUST program in painting and sculpture today.
Some of faculty in the program embraced the twenty reforms seid'ou recommended in the conclusion to his dissertation (seid'ou 2006: 344–51). Joining him in the redesign and rejuvenation of the curriculum for third- and fourth-year students as well as those pursuing graduate degrees were Kwaku Boafo Kissiedu and George Ampratwum. Their efforts have been strongly supported by the current dean of the Faculty of Art, Edwin Bodjawah, as well as the sole female faculty member in the Department of Painting and Sculpture, sculptor Dorothy Amenuke.
One defining characteristic of the KNUST program is that the faculty and advanced students form a collective, a nonhierarchical community of artists who study, produce art in a wide range of forms and media, participate in group critiques, and work in curatorial teams to organize exhibitions. Often these exhibitions include works by current faculty, advanced undergraduate and graduate students, recent alumni, and older artists—all intermingled and given comparable weight in the installation. Every effort is made to expose students to developments in art across the continent of Africa and internationally through assigned readings and discussions; interactions with visiting curators and prominent artists from Africa, Europe, and the Americas; and residencies in Ghana and abroad for students and faculty. Students are encouraged to explore all media as well as performance art, writing, curation, and social engagement as aspects of their practice. Each third- and fourth-year student is required to collaborate with members of the Kumasi community in developing a body of work, identifying a space for installation or performance, and mounting an exhibition.
Responding to the fact that there are no art museums or galleries in the city and only limited space on campus for art installations, students have successfully commandeered sites ranging from commercial enterprises, to abandoned transit hubs and rail lines, to streets, parks, and sanitation facilities. Their projects are sometimes described as “guerrilla exhibitions” and the process of developing them as “archaeology of the city.” Communities selected for interventions are typically marginalized groups. For example, current student Caleb Kwarteng Prah has worked with porter women, who come to Kumasi from rural areas and find work delivering loads of goods in metal basins carried on their heads. These women are homeless but form a close-knit community. Prah had to earn their trust in order to produce a series of stunning photographic profile portraits, which he presented in single, diptych, or triptych formats that referenced European Renaissance religious imagery.
One of the questions faculty and students grapple with has to do with the impact of such interventions on the lives of the local people. As conceptual artist and KNUST MFA student Kwasi Ohene-Aye asked during his remarks for an ACASA Triennial panel, to what extent are their needs and interests taken into account?2 By extension, we question if their lives are impacted in any positive ways after their interaction with KNUST artists is past. These issues are unresolved at KNUST, not surprisingly, just as internationally many artists ask—without agreeing on an answer—whether art can and should change individuals, communities, or society as a whole.
To facilitate collaborative projects with groups of artist-curators, interventions in unconventional spaces, and exhibitions that deeply engage with local communities, in 2015 KNUST art faculty launched blaxTARLINES, an art incubator that they describe as “an experimental project space for contemporary art” (seid'ou 2015: 131).3 This is a virtual or intellectual space rather than a physical one. In their collaborative practice, faculty and students critique the global capitalist system; question the dominant role of markets, collectors, and institutions in shaping the careers of artists; and find alternatives to these entrenched models that prevail in Europe and the United States.
In order to address several concerns—a lack of awareness in Accra of the work being done in Kumasi, limited exposure of students in Kumasi to developments in Accra, and the underrecognition of Ghanaian artists in the international arena—blaxTARLINES decided to mount the program's annual year-end exhibitions in Accra. Since 2015 these shows have been staged at the Museum of Science and Technology, a rambling three-story structure with an abundance of space and interesting architectural features. In 2015 The Gown Must Go to Town included the work of fifty-seven students, alumni, and faculty of KNUST and was curated by a team of graduate students led by Robin Riskin. In 2106 the exhibition Cornfields in Accra, curated by students led by PhD candidate Bernard Akoi-Jackson, was even more ambitious and included works by eighty artists (Figs. 1–2). The 2017 year-end exhibition, Orderly Disorderly, featured works by more than ninety artists and was again curated by a team led by Bernard Akoi-Jackson. Works in each of these shows encompassed a wide range of media, materials, and formats that included paintings on canvas, murals, political cartoons, photography, fiber arts, video, sound pieces, performance art, assemblage, and sprawling installations incorporating a wide range of materials. The exhibitions also incorporated diverse, multisite projects that extended into the city and into virtual spaces. Members of each curatorial team have completed a course on curating. Faculty consult with them while remaining in the background, allowing the students to learn by refining their skills in this challenging environment. Students produce the interpretive text, which is provided in Braille and local languages as well as English; prepare printed materials; and develop extensive programming to accompany each exhibition, thereby engaging with diverse local audiences as well as international visitors to the city. The staging of these massive exhibitions is made possible by collaborations between blaxTARLINES, the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board, the Museum of Science and Technology, and for the most recent project, the Department of Theater Arts, University of Ghana, Legon, the Foundation for Contemporary Art, and The Studio, Accra.
The collaborations between blaxTARLINES and government institutions have been fruitful, but cannot disguise the fact that government support for the arts is still nascent. President John Dramani Mahama began his term with high hopes for creative arts in Ghana's future. In 2013, he crafted a governmental priority of “developing a competitive creative arts industry” and reorganized the Ministry of Tourism into the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Creative Arts. In spite of these overtures, the Ministry has failed to make significant headway in establishing ties with the growing creative arts industry. Acknowledging their own absence in the creative fields, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Creative Arts has cited “unreliable data,” a “lack of cohesion in the creative arts domains,” and “noncooperative local stakeholders” (Republic of Ghana 2014: 40–49). To date the administration has made little forward movement in establishing a permanent arts infrastructure in Ghana. As a result, Ghana still has no publicly funded art museum.4 Artists and art activists in Accra thus face the challenge of sustaining a burgeoning interest in contemporary art practice without the resources that public museums and government support could provide. For contemporary artists who use unconventional materials and ephemeral formats, these challenges can be daunting. Although their artworks may be popular, they are complex for galleries and buyers to handle. Furthermore, many in this new generation have more ambivalent relationships with commercialization than did artists of prior generations, and building local arts infrastructure seems a greater priority than establishing an art market. With limited public support for the arts, private entities are filling in the gaps, including communities of artists such as the Foundation for Contemporary Art, Ghana (FCA), organizers such as Mantse Aryeequaye, and NGOs such as the Nubuke Foundation. Working across institutional lines, these groups, artists, and curators have spent the last decade working to assemble shared exhibit spaces, funding, logistical expertise, and digital resources in order to facilitate the growing contemporary art scene.
In an effort to characterize and visualize these relationships, we began a project of mapping the interactions of individual and group actors, objects, and places in the Accra contemporary arts scene since 2002, drawing our method from actor-network theory (Latour 2005: 10–12).5 While several institutions have been especially helpful for sustaining arts spaces in Accra, there is no single institution, artist, group actor, or imperative that was the prime instigator of the arts movement. Instead, the vitality of the arts movement in Ghana seems to be the result of incidental as well as intentional collisions of actor-networks of artists, academics, curators, works of art, public roadways, digital sites, institutional imperatives, guerrilla exhibitions, and other such complex energies (Fig. 3).
The Foundation for Contemporary Art, Ghana is one primary institutional front-runner of the current arts scene in Accra. Founded in 2002 by Australian artist Virginia Ryan and Ghanaian anthropologist and conservator Joe Nkrumah, the FCA became a member-based arts laboratory for “out-of-the-box” contemporary artists to connect with one another across Accra (Woets 2011: 219). Under Ryan's directorship, member artists experimented with new media and subject matter, crafting art from discarded materials, ambient sound and abstract forms. Deliberately ambivalent to established galleries, this small group of artists defined themselves in contrast to the interests and styles of modern academically trained Ghanaian artists from prior generations such as Ablade Glover and Wiz Kudowor.
These FCA-affiliated artists were critical of the older generations' subjects, themes, and strict formal educations. They brainstormed ways to encourage a Ghanaian artistic sphere that featured experimentation, public participation, and critical debate. Meeting monthly, artists expected to find little commercial interest for their works and focused their attention toward creating interacting networks of artists, arts educators, collectors, and enthusiasts. Early on, these conversations extended across both physical spaces in Accra and digital spaces on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They questioned the role of art in society, the identity politics of artists working in Africa, and the potential for new modes of artistic production to circumvent problematic trends related to Euro-American art worlds and the place of explicitly African art within them (Woets 2011: 222).
In 2004, not long after FCA was founded, Atta Kwami founded the international artists workshop SaNsA in Kumasi. This workshop brought together artists and intellectuals from across Africa, its diaspora, and Europe, encouraging cross-pollinating conversations and collaborations that carry on in annual workshops till today. Under the directorship of artists Adjoa Amoah and Ato Annan since 2008, the FCA has also facilitated international workshops in contemporary art, including annual Curatorial Intensives with Independent Curators International (ICE). By 2015, FCA had built up the largest public art library in Ghana, with over 3000 texts. Unfortunately, this library was destroyed in 2016 when a large tree fell upon and crushed FCA headquarters, exposing the library collections to damage. Another priority for FCA has been community-based arts education programs in Accra. FCA often partners with the Dei Centre: for the study of contemporary art, established by businessman Seth Dei to exhibit his collection of modern and contemporary Ghanaian art, house an art library named for Joe Nkrumah, and offer educational programming in the visual arts.
At the same time, others were actively expanding resources and opportunities to support the practice and appreciation of Ghanaian art in Accra and the nation. In 2006, working to craft a noncommercial space for art appreciation, KNUST-educated artist Kofi Setordji joined with arts activists Odile Tevie and Tutu Agyere to establish the Nubuke Foundation. Dedicated to preserving the arts, heritage, and culture of Ghana, the foundation collects the work of a wide variety of Ghanaian artists, from academically trained contemporary painters to self-taught artists and traditional weavers. It hosts artist residencies and workshops; mounts temporary exhibitions of historical, modern, and contemporary art; and offers a range of educational programs for children and adults.
In 2009, art activist and producer Mantse Aryeequaye and scholar Dr. Sionne Neely founded Accra[dot]alt, a digital platform for West Africa, drawing together contemporary multimedia experimentations in Ghanaian creative arts. With a website that focused as much on design as content, Accra[dot]alt pioneered new ways of representing creativity in the region. Not only did they highlight explicit products of artistic creation, such as electronic music, sculpture, and writings; they also drew attention to artists' lifestyles, fashion, and attitudes as creative works par excellence, as they have done extensively with artist and DJ Steloo Live. Accra[dot]alt and their alternative music station Sabolai Radio have promoted the works of sound innovators in West Africa and beyond, drawing attention to the sound, music, and time-based performative interventions that increasingly pervade Accra's social life. The same year they founded Accra[dot]alt, Neely and Aryeequaye started the Chale Wote street art festival in dialogue with FCA and other artists, city planners, and interested parties. Young FCA-affiliated artists brought vital conversations about public art, accessibility, and cultural infrastructure into the festival, while Accra[dot]alt represented these in visually compelling ways through editorial content created and produced in Ghana. Over the past seven years, Chale Wote has transformed from a series of loosely connected events held in a single day in the old Jamestown section of Accra to a week-long public showcase of contemporary artists, artworks, audiovisual technologies, institutions, materials, and residents that draws tens of thousands of participants and observers.
In 2012, a few years after Accra[dot]alt was founded, Ghanaian cultural historian Nana Oforiatta Ayim relocated to Accra from London and established ANO, a cultural research platform whose principal mission is to create and facilitate alternative ways of exhibiting art that bypass traditional museum routes. In 2016 ANO began an online “Cultural Encyclopaedia” of African arts and culture in partnership with the Art + Technology Program of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. Emerging from these multimedia conversations, certain themes have come to occupy Ghana's youthful generation of artists, including gender binaries, market forces, and engagement with the work and lives of everyday residents and laborers in the city. By bringing this concern for workers to the foreground, artists call attention to the complex landscapes of labor and identity that shape Accra's streets, very much in keeping with the social practice and “archeology of the city” that is integral to the art curriculum at KNUST, where many of the artists studied.
A few examples: KNUST MFA student Priscilla Kennedy is known for her provocative embroidered hangings that portray nude or partially clad women who are anything but passive recipients of the viewer's gaze. A green-haired girl chops off her long hair with a menacing set of scissors, another tears at her clothing, another pulls her underwear down to her ankles. Priscilla crafts these works by first tracing the images onto keffiyeh (a type of male Muslim head covering) purchased from public markets in Accra, and then commissioning male Muslim embroiderers to finish the final images with thread and stitching. Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi, a KNUST-educated performance artist and instructor in the Department of Painting and Sculpture, orchestrates frequently visceral gender-queer performances in public spaces, and challenges audiences to face his/her survival in Ghanaian public life as man and woman (Fig. 4). Martin Toloku, a self-taught artist who produced a large installation in James Fort Prison for Chale Wote, buries newspaper-plastered works of scavenged wood in termite colonies that he raises near his home. The final sculptures are crisscrossed by deep furrows where termites have consumed them. He carefully removes each termite from the sculpture (using smoke) then returns it to his colonies. He considers these termites his active collaborators. Choreographer and performance artist Elisabeth Efua Sutherland, who founded the Accra Theatre Workshop in 2012, dances, directs, and writes fluid performance pieces that draw on Ghana's strong history of theatrical writing and performance, incorporating sound as well as emerging technologies to explore identity and myth-making. Each year since 2012, the Accra Theatre workshop has held a children's workshop, Summer Shakespeare, around the time of Chale Wote.
When these diverse artworks are positioned next to one another in large, multilayered shows such as the KNUST year-end exhibitions, they create complex sensory landscapes for audiences to navigate. The space of the exhibition hall is thus transformed into something radically open-ended and dialogic. In line with growing appreciation for large and heterogeneous exhibitions, Accra[dot]alt, FCA, and individual artists have taken to social media as naturally multivocal and multimodal platforms for exhibition.
Content streams and “shares” allow media to spread across time and space in a way that museum exhibitions alone cannot. At the technical level, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram algorithms expose users to a vast array of media content, while also optimizing their individual experiences according to their expressed interests. On the side of the user, this means that social media forums are multifarious and crowded exhibition spaces that are nonetheless tailored to user's interests, encouraging individual engagement. Through social media in Ghana's art scene, audiences participate in observing, sharing, and promoting art culture as well as critiquing it through direct comments. Given the rapidity with which content travels in online spheres, both arts conversations and digitized art pieces can outrun the control of the original producers—artwork and ideas can be copied, transformed, commented upon, or excavated with far greater ease than physical counterparts. By limiting what producers can say about their posts—such as an image of a performance or a photograph of a new art piece—these platforms give audiences great breadth for interpreting, commenting, or reading each work in contexts unique to its content streams.
These works and their digital production are firmly rooted within the everyday soil of Accra and Kumasi in line with Daniel Miller's insights that flourishing digital spaces can be situated in profoundly local grounds as well as globally (Miller et al. 2016: 100). Broadcast across social media, artists and digital art activists draw attention to the hidden materials and futuristic fantasies of Accra's boroughs. They use Instagram photos that track the progress of installations in the old neighborhood of Jamestown, home to Chale Wote, and use Facebook Live feeds that allow local and international publics to remotely attend performances and panels at the Museum of Science and Technology in conjunction with KNUST year-end shows. A caveat: These technologies, guided as they are by ones' preferences and existing networks, do not necessarily cultivate fertile discussion. In a lecture at the University of Florida in 2017, Elisabeth Efua Sutherland referenced social media “filter bubbles” and “echo chambers” in expressing her view that players in Ghana's contemporary art world often communicate only among themselves and have no significant impact on the thinking or daily realities of the greater population of Accra or the nation of Ghana.6
In the midst of these developments, there are new institutions in Accra that are poised to capitalize on, promote, and extend contemporary artist's works to largely international buyers. Gallery 1957, founded by Marwan Zakhem, opened in 2016 in the five-star Kempenski Hotel, joining established commercial galleries such as Ablade Glover's Artists Alliance Gallery and Frances Ademola's Loom Gallery.7 Early during our stay in Accra in summer 2016 we attended the opening of Jeremiah Quarshie's exhibition Yellow Is the Color of Water curated by KNUST graduate student in curatorial studies Robin Riskin for Gallery 1957, which at the time was directed by ANO founder Nana Oforiatta-Ayim. In conjunction with the opening of the exhibition, Marwan Zakhem organized a panel on collecting contemporary African art, where he was joined by Ablade Glover, founder of Artists Alliance Gallery; Kerryn Greenberg, curator of international art at the Tate Modern; Touria El Glaoui, founder of the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair; and Tutu Agyere of the Nubuke Foundation. In the audience were artists, curators, art faculty, journalists, collectors, auction house representatives, students, and other art enthusiasts. Thus from the outset of our research we were struck by the international attention riveted on developments in Accra and Kumasi.
In the following weeks and months we became aware of the extent to which the world is coming to Ghana and the degree to which Ghanaian artists are invited to do residences and exhibit their work around the world—in Amsterdam, Berlin, Dakar, Lagos, London, New York, Philadelphia, Santiago de Cali, Tel Aviv, Venice for the Biennale, Kassel for Documenta, and numerous other locations. Just as virtually every museum that collects contemporary art has or desires a work by El Anatsui, increasingly curators are seeking works by other leading Ghanaian artists. While this is a positive development for the artists and for international audiences, it contributes to the situation Chika Okeke-Agulu lamented in his op-ed in the New York Times, “Modern Art is Being Gentrified,” where he observed that “[T]he continent's masses will be the biggest losers. They will be denied access to artworks that define the age of independence and symbolize the slow process of postcolonial recovery” (Okeke 2017). Fortunately, both the Dei Centre and the Nubuke Foundation have built and continue to develop collections of Ghanaian modern and contemporary art that are accessible to the public and accompanied by rich interpretive programming for audiences of all ages and backgrounds. This does not negate the pressing need for a publicly funded museum devoted to collecting, exhibiting, and interpreting the art of Ghana.
Another moral quandary for Ghanaian artists who have embraced the alternative practices introduced by the Foundation for Contemporary Art, blaxTARLINES, Acra[dot]alt, and other arts organizations is the potential to be seduced by the international art market and subsumed into the global capitalist system against which kąrî'kạchä seid'ou, his colleagues, and many other artists have rebelled. As seid'ou has said of his own position, it is
a constructive rather than resistance politics. It is to affirm and thereby help invent an alternative to the global mainstream than to assimilate. However, like Derrida's “Pharmakon,” events in the global mainstream could function as both poison and cure, and neither (seid'ou 2014: 113).
seid'ou's education and career, including his decision to change his name from Edwin Amankwah to kąrî'kạchä seid'ou as part of his artistic practice, are discussed by Kwami (2013: 316–33).
We paraphrase a remark made by Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh in his presentation “The Politics of Relationality” for the panel Emancipation: Critical Art Teaching in Kumasi and the Rise of Independent Public Art Projects in Ghana chaired by Atta Kwami and Bernard Akoi-Jackson at the ACASA Triennial in Accra on August 10, 2017.
The name is, of course, a play on that of the Black Star Steamship Line operated 1919–1923 by Marcus Garvey and his Universal Negro Improvement Association to facilitate return to Africa and beneficial global trade for blacks in the Diaspora.
A building intended to serve as an art museum opened at KNUST in 2004. However, after only a few exhibitions were mounted it was taken over by the university for revenue-generating purposes. In 2017, the KNUST administration announced plans to return the building to the Faculty of Art for use as a museum. Restoration of the space is underway.
Olivier Marcel (2017) has made a call for further data-driven studies of African art worlds, demonstrating a visually rich approach in his social network analysis of Pan-African curation and exhibition networks.
Sutherland's unpublished public lecture at the University of Florida's Center for African Studies on November 3, 2017 was titled “Deverb: Echo Chambers and Common Things Made Holy in Akan Society.”
Gallery 1957 has hosted a series of single-artist contemporary installations with concurrent public programming. Artists shown to date have been Serge Clottey, Zohra Opoku, Jeremiah Quarshie, Va-Bene Fiatsi, Gerald Chukwuma, Yaw Owusu, Godfried Donkor, Elisabeth Efua Sutherland, and Paa Joe, and designers and tailors of Fancy Dress Masquerades.