By John Owoo
(In Accra – Ghana)
A huge exhibition, comprising eighty symbolic photographs by Alexis Webster (South Africa) and Iwan Baan (The Netherlands) that vividly illustrate post-colonial structures in five African countries is currently underway at the Museum of Science and Technology in Accra.
Titled “African Modernism – Architecture of Independence”, it follows a scholarly work by the award wining German architect / academic Manuel Herz alongside Ingrid Schröder, Hans Focketyn and Julia Jamrozik that categorized architecture in Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Kenya and Zambia.
Constructed in the 1960s and 70s with designs largely by European architects, the buildings evoke diverse issues relating to politics, culture, liberation, shades, climate, societal norms and identity as well as the challenges and paradoxes faced by the then new states.
Largely designed by French and English architects, the images equally offer a trail of the different approaches to growth and economic development undertaken by various independence leaders, who were bent of proving their capacity / ability to govern and effectively manage the affairs of their various countries.
Undeniably, the exhibition fundamentally succeeds in getting the viewer to understand the architecture and the mind set that commissioned these structures, which are replete with inconsistency, complexity and yet full of creativity and sophistication.
Although, there were not many local architects at the time of construction, one Ghanaian architect John Owusu Addo was involved in the designs of some of these modernist structures. It is sad to note that the legacy of these buildings have been questioned owing to the apparent lack of interest in the continuation and development of this style of architecture.
“African Modernism – Architecture of Independence” equally raises the question of architectural training in Africa and the aspirations of both young and established architects for the future, which is full of high expectations owing to the apparent growth of several economies on the continent.
These questions will be tackled by a series of panel discussions and presentations being curated by the Ghanaian artist / academic Dr. Bernard Akoi-Jackson. Topics slated for presentation and discussion include “Between the High Sea and a very Hard Rock: Modernization. Modernism”,
Others are “Revisiting the threat and manifestation of neo colonialism in Africa”, Better off in the bush: On slavery, colonialism and truncation of development in Africa” and “Exchange. Exchanger: Before, After and Hence, Ibrahim Mahama confronts Max Gerlach, Drew, Fry and Owusu Addo”.
Panelists include Prof Owusu Afram (Lecturer, KNUST) Bärbel Müller (Lecturer, University of Applied Arts, Austria), Nontombeko Ntombela (Wits University, South Africa), Prof. G.W. Ntsiful (Lecturer, KNUST), Nat Nuno Amarteifio, Joe Osae Addo, Augustus Richardson (Architects – Ghana) and Ibrahim Mahama / Kwasi Ohene Ayeh (Artists / PhD students, KNUST).
The exhibition, which ends on Monday August 27, is being presented by Goethe-Institut Ghana in collaboration with the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board and blaxTARLINES KUMASI, a contemporary art space the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.
It was first shown at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil em Rhein (Germany) and is currently touring a number of countries in Africa. It will also be displayed at the blaxTARLINES space in September 2018.
Pictures – Goethe-Institut Ghana / Vome