By Nii Laryea Korley
Smiles and laughter – inspired by optimism – lit up the atmosphere at the Best Western Premier Hotel, Accra, as artistes of different persuasions came together for the launch of a multi-flanged project dubbed Cultural Crossings.
It is basically a platform to enable eligible African artistes travel on the continent and share relevant experiences. The brains behind the project are Liberian-born, England-based artist Sarah Güsten-Marr and Ghanaian spoken work exponent and founder of the Ehalakasa poetry movement, Benedict Kojo Quaye (aka Sir Black).
They took time to explain the essence of the project to the gathering which included the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts, Dzifa Gomashie; actress and film producer, Juliet Asante; Daddy Bosco of the Musicians Union of Ghana; photographer and music industry publicist, Cary Sullivan and Liberian photographer and actor, Omanza Shaw.
Sarah Güsten-Marr is a well-travelled, bubbly, eloquent character with a deep passion to see African artistes explore more of their continent and help each other excel at what they do. She owns Gallery GM in Yorkshire, England, and was the hub of the gathering as she explained the different components of the Cultural Crossings project.
“I truly believe that travelling enhances knowledge, so the more we travel, the more we are open to different things, which is exactly what we need in the world. Sir Black and I got together and decided it was important to give opportunities to our brothers and sisters in the arts on the continent,” she said.
“We have these beautiful countries side by side but we do not know each other’s country so we have decided that Gallery GM, together with the Ehalakasa movement, will support one artist every year to do a cultural crossing for the next 10 years and experience another African country.” “If you have extra funds, forget about another pair of shoes. Put it into an orphanage, put it into another artiste.”
Paul Forjoe Jnr, also known as 100 per cent, winner of the 2015 Ehalakasa Slam Championship for spoken work artistes, will, therefore, be sponsored to an African country, at a date to be announced soon, to interact with other artistes there.
Cultural Crossings is also bent on helping to strengthen cultural ties between Ghana and Liberia and there will be frequent exchange of artistes between the two countries.
Sarah Güsten-Marr said her artiste-in-residence programme at Yorkshire was still functional and African artistes were welcome to participate. Her Gallery GM has also made provision to support a culture-driven environmental programme for a section of Liberians in the Central Region under the Cultural Crossings project.
Omanza Shaw, co-ordinator of the Cultural Crossings project in Liberia, also pointed out that the arts, more than any other field of endeavour, has the capability to unite and rejuvenate communities. He urged for support from artistes and other relevant bodies for the project.
The Deputy Minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts praised the Cultural Crossings project because “it helps to create a platform for young people to have a stage on which they can fly higher than we are doing.”
Cary Sullivan, who is reggae star Rocky Dawuni’s wife, described the arts as a weapon for social change and said people, must get into it primarily for the passion they have for it and not for the money.