By John Owoo
Performance art has without doubt been prevalent in Ghana for generations – nevertheless a kind of renaissance is gradually unfolding following bold performances by Bernard Akoi Jackson, Akwele Suma Glory and Olaniyi Akindiya in the early 2000s.
Since then a number of highly charged performances have rocked Accra and beyond during exhibitions comprising a number of local and foreign artists. Undeniably, these acts were technically and intellectually thorough – and appeared quite simple although complex and quite multifaceted.
In recent years, the Chale Wote Street Art Festival, which is without doubt becoming a powerful fixture on the Ghanaian arts scene, has been noted for presenting various performing artists – both local and foreign.
Indeed, during the 2015 edition of the festival, South African artist / photographer Dean Hutton, Italian artist Natascia Silverio and Ghanaian artists Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi (crazinisT artisT) and Serge Attukwei Clottey, who appeared with a retinue of performers managed to challenge conventional, social patterns and past artistic values as they emphasized the human body’s role in art.
Dubbed “African Electronics”, it was an interaction of nudes and semi nudes, wires, chains and ropes that radiated an atmosphere of an uncanny calm. Also noticeable were facial expressions that evoked tales of physical and supernatural phenomena, which touched on humanity and mankind.
With her naked body and hair painted in gold and a school bell hanging on her waist by means of a rope, Hutton moved along the streets of Jamestown (Accra) with a majestic awe as she laid bare the sacred nature of the human body and its ability to transmit messages.
Although she may not meet beauty standards elsewhere, Hutton surely met the benchmarks in James Town (a suburb of Accra) with her body – both men and women stared in awe with some ladies stealing “jealous” glances, as some members of the audience gazed with utter amazement and remote attention.
Much of Dean’s work is concerned with social issues including the rights of women and the dispossessed while giving a voice to those who are rarely heard above the furor of mainstream media coverage and middle class indignation.
A “duet” by Fiatsi and Silverio created a “tremor” effect as Fiatsi, totally naked and painted in black lay motionless while Silverio, with a piece of cloth around her breasts and waist sits over him in a rather listless yet equally mobile manner as interconnected wires and other items interconnect.
All together, three performances were composed as one installation piece that explored the collective flow of energy from three different power stations to question a variety of possibilities in Africa – regardless of sexuality, race, gender and cultural identities.
Young dynamic artist Attukwei Clottey led a procession of artists in deep social, spiritual and philosophical march that expressed a manifestation of vibrational harmonic resonance. With a mask fashioned out of plastic gallons with his legs and feet tired in ropes, he effectively charmed the audience as he moved from street to street commenting on social and environmental justice.
Art lovers in Ghana must be poised for more of this approach to making art – which is developed on logical analyses of conceptual expressionism – indeed, it is set to continue challenging, engaging and confronting the population at large.