Kofi Setordji runs the Nubuke Foundation out in East Legon. It sits on a gorgeous property outside of the hustle and bustle of Accra. He has a sleek white-walled gallery, a stage for performances and readings, and a grassy seating area scattered with sculptures. A popsicle-orange bar functions during events, and murals line the gallery building and stage.
Kofi hosts artist discussions every first Sunday. He brings local artists into the gallery. He works with students at the university who become not just his students but also his collaborators. They write the articles in his Art Focus publication; they made the mural behind the stage. His student Kobe sat down to chat with me about how the colors are complementary, but the contrasting shapes represent the stratus of roles in society.
When I visited, Kofi was overseeing renovations of the grounds. “The stone should go here,” he was instructing. “Is the sign done?” We went out to inspect it, and he put a finger to the words “record.preserve.promote.” It was freshly dry. He smiled.
I didn’t see much of Kofi’s work, just one Picasso-like painting displayed by some couches outside the gallery. Kofi does more mixed media than his contemporaries. He is known for Genocide Monument, a sculpture piece that recalls Rwanda, of thousands of terracotta faces in the dirt. It is currently in Berlin. Indeed, most of Kofi’s work is elsewhere, or in his home. The Nubuke Foundation is focused on promoting and fostering other artists of Ghana, not himself.
Kofi is a busy man, but he took time off to take me to a nearby spot and chat with me about the art world, Ghanaian and American society, love, marriage, and everything in between. He has traveled the world and knows a lot about American culture. He challenged me with statistics from Michael Moore movies, and when I commented on Ghana’s waste management, he shot back at me with facts on America’s (which I agree with – America’s waste management is terrible too, in different ways). Kofi is a free thinker. He disagrees with many traditional Ghanaian ways of marriage and religion. He also cares very much about being kind and a good person. He has a general feeling of warmth toward humanity, and you can tell he is a giving person.
“If I pay and you give me change, I won’t count the change,” he said. “If that is what you want to give me back, I will accept that.”
Still, when the waiter came to give him change for the drinks (which he generously paid for), he counted it.