The community art project is coming along.
We’re holding it in Nima cause the JAC started there, and because it’s a pretty poor area that doesn’t get much art, and we’d like to bring it there. Ato and Adwoa from the Foundation for Contemporary Art (FCA) recommended some young, community-oriented artists from Nima to get in touch with, Larry Aminu and Musah Swallah. I met them last night at Larry (Otoo)’s talk at Nubuke (which was wonderful, by the way). They were on board practically before we started talking. Today they took me around the streets of Nima for us to pick a spot.
Larry and Musah showed me a great platform area that is currently being used to hang washing, which we can turn into a stage. It’s right by the highway, so it’s easy for outsiders to get to, but it’s also in the heart of the neighborhood, and it should attract a lot of locals. We’ll play music, have food, and hopefully the whole neighborhood will come out.
The project isn’t fully decided yet. Larry and Musah are going to talk to the community leaders in the next couple days about how to address the area’s specific needs. We’ll figure out more details once we get to work with the students. Serge Attukwei Clottey should also be joining us once he’s back from his residency in Jamestown, Accra. Let’s just say it’s looking like it’ll be a mural on a public building nearby.
Sculpture has most likely been ruled out, as a more experimental art form in an area where art is not very respected in the first place. Larry and Musah were saying that artists are often considered “not serious” or “dirty” in Nima – an attitude they are passionate about changing. Worshiping idols is prohibited in Islam (Nima is a Muslim area), which further limits options for artistic creation. I’d been thinking we might do something with recycled materials (mainly because they are free), but that probably won’t happen. Just as well, every person in town seems to be going with the “recycled” theme. The other night I saw a film screening on plastic waste in Accra, as part of an environmentalism film series. The week before our project, there’ll be a street art festival in Jamestown incorporating waste materials (Chale Wote, July 17, check it out).
Nima itself holds an interesting mix of people and houses. Fancy establishments take up the edges; the inner realms hold a crowded but vibrant ghetto. I’d only been on the outskirts before to meet with artists or teach for the JAC. I got a real taste of the inside this time (“Now you can say you’ve been to the jungle,” Larry said) – winding passageways through gutters and shaky cobbles; kids running through the streets playing; a woman tying together a live chicken’s legs with a black plastic bag (“rubber,” they call it); men with gray beards sitting on mats outside a mosque.
Larry and Musah are excited about the project because they said people want to come to Nima but they don’t, either because they hear it’s dangerous, or simply because they don’t have a specific reason to. This will give them one.
Personally, I felt perfectly safe walking around with Larry and Musah. The biggest threat was just falling into the sewer.
This street reminded me of a photograph in the Ghana-Haverford photo exhibition I organized in December, taken by the student Mawuli in the streets of Nima. Here it is, still for sale actually, if you’re interested.
Tags: Accra, adwoa, art, artist, ato, chale wate, community art project, environmentalism, fca, foundation for contemporary art, Ghana, husseini hashim, islam, jac, junior art club, larry aminu, larry otoo, mozzay, musah swallah, muslim, nima, nubuke foundation, recycled, serge attukwei clottey, yussif larry aminu