Ch-ch-check it out, “like” my Ghanaian dad. More photos coming when I have better internet…just this took about three hours
Posts Tagged ‘artist’
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.
Yeahh…don’t know quite how that happened (and I’m not gonna leave the YouTube link, sorry guys). Reggie gave Saskia’s number to Tic Tac, another hip life artist. Tic Tac asked Saskia to be in his video and bring along her friends. Come Tuesday, there we were at Rockstone’s Office getting ready for filming (/waiting three hours for Tic Tac and the other artist Eze to show up).
They had a pretty slutty scene with a red car, but I didn’t do that part. Saskia and I just did a couple dancing scenes that mostly took place in the Office. They begged Saskia to dance by the car. She refused but finally agreed to dance behind it. Some of the things the other girls in the video had to do, or thought they were supposed to do, were disgusting. Gyrating against the car, against the rappers; wearing belly shirts and tiny skirts. They told me and Saskia that we didn’t have to do that. The final product of the video doesn’t look that bad though, they didn’t use the worst clips.
The whole thing was pretty low budget. I just wore the clothes and makeup I showed up in. I didn’t even realize when I was about to go on set, and they hardly gave us any instruction. Now I know that a lot of the girls in hip-hop videos probably feel awkward while they’re dancing in front of the camera, because honestly, the whole thing is really silly. It doesn’t feel at all in person how it looks on screen. Saskia and I had no idea what we were doing most of the time, but it didn’t really matter; the final product looks professional.
I feel a little bad for participating in a video that is so clearly sexist and materialistic. At first I was confused by the lyrics, “Materialism, materialism/shouldn’t be the reason for the killing.” I asked Eze, “If materialism is bad, why the big red car? Why do you flash a wad of bills?”
“We are against the materialism of the robber.”
“But you’re materialistic in the video, aren’t you?”
“My materialism is okay. I have earned the money honestly.”
I frowned. “But don’t the lyrics say materialism is bad?”
“No, no, killing and robbing are bad, but money is good. We are saying, you want to have money like us, not like the robber.”
“Don’t you feel bad advocating materialism?” I said. “I mean, I know American rap videos are totally materialistic too, but in America we mostly at least pretend that materialism is wrong, even if we actually are materialistic.”
“As long as you arrive at the money legally, it is okay, it is good,” he said. “You should not steal or kill to get money, you should earn it honestly. Like me, by rapping.”
I nodded and gave up.
The whole ordeal was tiring, but at times great and a little out of this world.
For instance, Eze showing up in a bright green suit and personally delivering us rice for dinner.
Or our new friend Cassie, who had a whole closet full of makeup, heels, and tight clothes stuffed into her bag that she couldn’t wait to share, and who said we had to come visit her in Tema. She commented me on Facebook later, “Let’s stay in touch, always.”
Or a man named Green who tried to convince me to study the Bible with him on Sunday (I’m Jewish) and asked why I wasn’t wearing a short dress like the other girls.
Or the two main girls from the video, Leona and Natasha, who could not get enough of me and Saskia. They would touch our hair, ask about America and Europe, and say, “Come here, baby.” When Leona would try to talk to me, Natasha would say to her, “You’re stealing my new best friend, baby.” For the scene on the couch with the bad guy, Leona and Natasha were given blue twenty-cedi notes to rub down their dresses – which they tried their best to keep, but I don’t think they succeeded.
Saskia and I weren’t in the best mood by the time we left at 4:30 in the morning – and that was leaving early; the others stayed til 7. But it was certainly an experience, I can tell you that.
Saskia and I were leaning against the wooden fence outside the Office one Friday night. She looked over to the benches and said, “Hey, I think that’s the guy from the Mobile Boys. In Jesse’s video, you know?”
“Oh my God, we have to say hi to him!” I had read about him in African Masculinities, I had discussed him in class. And he was right here in front of me in Ghana.
“No, no,” Saskia said.
“Come on.” I slid off the fence and pulled her arm. She followed. We went up to him and said, “Hey, are you from the Mobile Boys?” He said he was, and invited us to sit down with him. His name was Kochoko. We talked with him about hip life, Jesse’s video, and life in Accra. Turns out it’s a lot harder to be a hip life artist than you’d realize. It’s hard to get a record label, hard to trust other people, and very hard to make money. Most people don’t have computers and even fewer have Internet, so it’s not like they download songs off iTunes. The albums they buy are bootlegged, and no one buys concert tickets.
Kochoko was telling us about a concert on TV the had to do the next night for free, just to promote himself and get the word out about his upcoming album. Before we knew it, he had asked us to dance with him on TV. The next night we were onstage at TV Africa. We had no idea what we were doing – I mean no idea – but the audience didn’t notice. They were excited just to see us dancing.
“Obruni, dance!” called a lady in the front row of the audience. They smiled and clapped along with us.
At the end of the show, one of the announcers said, “I don’t know what was up with those white girls or what they were doing here. Do you think they even understood the words? But that was great, can we give them a hand?”
I met with the artists for selfish reasons, because I wanted to, because it was amazing to meet these creative people and see their work. Still, I used the opportunity to set up contacts for the JAC and ask the artists if they could help us out on our upcoming projects. Many of them said they would be happy to come work with the kids for a session – to teach them about art, and for the kids to see what it is like to be a professional artist. When we have an auction with the children’s work, it will help to be able to say that, say, Larry Otoo was involved.
It was these artists and institutions that gave me hope about the art world in Ghana. The art I saw was so vibrant and beautiful, so clearly full of talent, that it made me wonder why we don’t have more contemporary Ghanaian and African art in our museums and institutions. We have plenty of old carvings and artifacts, but where are the Larry Otoos and Kofi Setordji’s inside the MOMA or Metropolitan walls? Not to mention the African museum walls?
The artists I met with told me I have to advocate them when I go home, not realizing that just because I am American does not mean I have any real influence. I will do what I can to spread awareness of Ghanaian art in my small world, and maybe it will reach some big ears. I can hope.
I just read Holland Cotter’s review of the African Art Museum of the SMA Fathers in New Jersey, which is one of only three African museums in the country. Cotter is exuberant about the wooden carvings and masks, but rightfully points out that there is more to African art than this, even though it’s what we usually see in museums — there is also metalwork, and guess what, gold-weights too!
I could not help from shaking my head as I read the words. Where are the Ablade Glovers, the Wiz Kudowors? What about all the contemporary art and painting in Africa, where’s that? I plan on writing to the SFA to see what they think of my buddies over in Ghana.