Although the history of fine art in Ghana can be traced to the Neolithic period of the Stone Age (circa 8,000 BC), most Ghanaians have not had the opportunity to experience some of these artworks.
Nevertheless, selected works from the collection of the National Museum and Monuments Board dating from the 1940s to the 90s are currently on show at the premises of the Museum in Accra.
Artists whose works are on display include Prof E.V. Asihene, Dr. Kobina Buucknor, Amon Kotei, Kofi Antubam, A.O. Bartemeus, J.C.O. Okyere, E. Owusu Dartey, Emmanuel Addo Osafo, F.A. Gyampoh, J.D. Okae, Kwame Wiafe Debra, Grace Salome Kwami, E.L. Asa Anakwa, Philip Amonoo, Prof Ablade Glover and Prof Ato Delaquis.
The images, which are characterized by huge traditional underpinnings, recall pristine landscapes / forests, chronicles of culture, superstition, glamorizing Ghanaian cultural practices and beauty / ingenuity of the African woman.
In a lecture that heralded the opening of the exhibition, Prof Kojo Fosu (Department of Art Education, University of Education, Winneba), delivered a historical overview of the art scene in Ghana with emphasis on the various stages that range from the Stone Age to New Experiments.
Quoting extensively from academic literature, Prof Fosu noted that by the turn of the 10th Century AD, major ethnic groups of migrating Africans who later consolidated their positions into ethnic states, empires and kingdoms, eventually produced standard artistic works of long standing historical significance.
“Sculpture was practiced mostly in forest sectors of the country for the interpretation of reality in nature, rather than copying for the exactness of nature”, said Prof Fosu, who has authored a number of books and other publications on art.
“The art of mural painting on the other hand continued as wall decorations on some palaces and shrines in several areas in the country. However, in the upper savannah (East), mural painting was practiced by female artists to decorate homes to raise social status of husbands as well as enliven palaces, shrines and communities” he added.
Touching on contemporary art in Ghana, Prof Fosu said Ghana has experienced varied interactions with foreign adventurers, slave raiders colonial exploiters and education architects – a move which has progressively evolved into a diverse cross cultural contemporary art tradition.
He dilated on the development of a unique hybrid of cross cultural contemporary art tradition, which he described as being the result of a cool blend of European art conventions of academic realism, proportions and perspectives with African ethnic art traditions of disproportions, stylizations and exaggerations.
“The harmonious blending of these three styles meant that the emerging new Ghanaian contemporary art of realism, often times composed in cultural narratives to romanticize and idealize Ghanaian customary practices, simultaneously displayed disproportionate features”, revealed Prof Fosu.
“The approach developed into an artistic style, which allowed the mode of its aesthetic appreciation to rely on both its intrinsic quality and contextual value”, he added.
The exhibition, which ends in March 2015, also witnessed a live painting by Prof Ablade Glover, Director of the Artists Alliance Gallery (Accra) and a former Dean of Students at the College of Art, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (Kumasi).
By John Owoo