MAKE BE with #TheBeyondCollective / Art Exhibit

Life in Ghana can be very monotonous. It is the red dust, the wailing religious songs, the water that doesn’t flow, the soup that never stops flowing, the discussion on how Ghanaians’ attitude to maintenance must change, the discussion on how the red dust is too much and the water doesn’t flow. Rinse and repeat. Then there are the art events which challenge all of that and carve out a whole new way of looking at where we are and who we are.

Last night was like that, an experience put together by the collective exhibit, “MAKE BE” by The Beyond Collective consisting of artists

Nana Anoff

Randa Jebeile

Eric Gyamfi

Poetra Asantewa

Nii Obodai

Rania Odaymat (also the curator)

Francis Kokoroko

While Poetra Ansantewaa, Eric Gyamfi, Nii Obodai, and Rania Odaymat looked inwards in beautiful, intricate, and overlaying works, with self-portraits, or in Poetra Asantewaa’s case her memories, as their medium,  Francis Kokrokoo, Randa Jebeile, and Nana Anoff looked outwards – Kokroko by using the symbol and actual presbyterian choral singers as his topic, Jebeile using colorful mosaics, and Anoff triumphing them all scale-wise by lifting half an airplane to the exhibit venue.

A collaborative piece between Kokroko and Odaymat and an NGO working with justice in Ghana’s prisons became the proud centerpiece of the exhibit: Remember Me, a large screened slideshow framed by barbed wire, with queenlike portraits of the women in Nsawam prison, sentenced to stay there for life, here fully made up, wearing beautiful and sparkling jewellery and attire. Their eyes glistened of many layers of feelings. Deep sadness. Defiance. Anger. Hope. Fear. Pride. The women seemed temporarily released by the dream of what could have been and it was mesmerizing.

The connection between all works was a contemplative and intimate stance demanding much from the viewer and I complained to a fellow visitor that I thought some of the works were too subtle or abstract, almost like I could not get a grip on any message from them. He disagreed completely and there we were, far from the red dust and conversations on maintenance culture.

Indicative of this rich pop-up art show was that only when scrolling through Instagram coverage of the exhibit already at home, I realized one could enter Nana Anoff’s airplane! There is much more to see, much more to be, and more to make than what is at first apparent.

 

More info:

MAKE BE

La Maison, Icon House, Airport City, Accra, Ghana.

4th – 8th October 2018

MAKE BE is an exhibition celebrating two years of reflection by seven artists. Paying homage to the Ghanaian context, it focuses on the resourcefulness of living in a space

and place that can bring magic and mayhem in the switch of a second. It is about creation and conversation, especially in an age of change and uncertainty.

The most significant obstacles we face as creatives are personal, while the biggest battles we wage are intimate. In contemplation of this, it made sense to turn our lens,

brushes, pens and craft inwards for reflection. It is an invitation for each artist to convey what existing and creating means to them.

-Rania Odaymat, Curator

Last Chance: Orderly/Disorderly BlaxTARLINES Art Exhibit

Here is an important Public Service Announcement:

The Orderly/Disorderly Art Show curated by Blaxtarlines (follow and support on FB, read the curatorial statement here) opened at the Science and Technology Museum in Accra at the end of June. If you did not yet see it yet, you only have until Friday 1 September to do so. 

The magnificent show where young artists both from KNUST and the professional fold in Ghana treat the order and disorder in our society, spans installations, video, cartoons, photography, textile and new techniques I cannot even describe. The show makes you happy, sad, marvel and it is miraculously free!

The show closes in grand style with a talk by the grandfather of Ghanaian art, Prof. Ablade Glover at 4 pm on September 1st, 2017.

UPDATE: Meet-the-Artist Series featuring Adwoa Amoah, Ato Annan, Francis Kokoroko and Shimawuda Ziorkley, in collaboration with Foundation For Contemporary Art,Ghana (FCA-Ghana) and @thestudioaccra

Date: Wednesday, 30th August, 2017 
Time: 4pm
Venue: Museum of Science & Technology, Barnes Road, Accra
Rate: Free

The event will be broadcast live via Facebook

After that, it is over! Take your chance!

See my slideshow with a small selection of the works on display from my visit at the Orderly/Disorderly art show with my kids.

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Chale Wote 2017 is Finally Here: #WataMata

Yaaaaay! Chale Wote Street Art Festival is here again! This year an array of Artist Labs are followed by a weekend of public street madness in Jamestown, Accra, Ghana.

The full program (PDF) that this year has the theme of “Wata Mata” (Water matters? Word play with “Mami Wata” the female deity of the sea) is totally overwhelming and massively impressive, but I am especially looking forward to…

Sat 19 August, 2017

  • Dzala Butiq Art Sale
  • The Accra Cookout international food court
  • The Mami Wata Procession

Sun 20, August, 2017

  • April Bey’s workshop on printing
  • Deo Gratias Photo Studio Open House
  • The Wata Mata Procession
  • High Life Cafe Stage program with Ria Boss and Wanlov

 

Perhaps most I am excited about the overall creative environment with surprises around every corner.

Looking forward to sharing it with you on social media – hashtags #ChaleWote2017 and #WataMata.

See you there!

 

Today I am all about Black Girls Glow…

..the album is finally out! If you want to listen to contemporary Ghana, tune into this beautiful collaboration between Ghanaian artists Poetra Asantewa and Dzyadzorm featuring fellow creatives Adomaa, Ria Boss, Cina Soul and Fu under the name Black Girls Glow.

From the first time I heard of this creative collaboration and its lineup, I have been excited. These artists are fab on their own, but often when women collaborate, the sky is the limit! However, the world we live in; patriarchal and commercial structures, make it more common that women compete.  “BGG is a concept that aims to raise the profile of female artists locally, regionally and globally by highlighting and showcasing the brilliant and talented young female artists making waves in the Ghanaian entertainment industry. Black Girls Glow is based on the notion that musical collaboration is a uniquely powerful way to connect people across political and cultural barriers.”, says one of the two initiators, Poetra Asantewa. It is powerful! These Ghanaian creatives are connecting, and it is an immediate creative win.

It is a playful album and even has a track called “Child’s Play” that is like a medley of songs and rhymes we sing to children and concludes with childhood ending? My favorite song is the passionate defense for the selfie: “it is the house you go braless in”, “selfie taking is reclaiming the value of self-love”… The album is a bit cryptically called Mother of Heirs, perhaps the Black Girls Glow collective is envisioning the woman that ought to be respected? The mightly mother of our future children? The track “Mother of Heirs” charges “step aside for the mother of heirs” over suggestive beats, and in sarcastic verses, “silly girl”, “little girl” and “pretty girl” are contrasted with this mother. But could we not also respect the silly, pretty girl for her playfulness, her humanity? Can we women not self-love before we realize we might (also) be the mother of heirs?

The sound is rich, the content critical (and often funny), and I want to sing along, I want to dance! Today I am all about Black Girls Glow!

You can listen to the full album here:  https://soundcloud.com/blackgirlsglow

Parenting in a New Environment

I am bringing my children up in an environment that is very different from how I grew up. Is that a problem or an added richness to their and my lives? 

Maybe I have to start with what the differences are between my rural Swedish upbringing on the island of Gotland in the 1980ies and my girls’ in the industrial city of Tema, Ghana today:

It is much warmer for once, ok, ok to be more serious, they are exposed to more inequality, malaria mosquitoes, carbohydrates, direct sun, rigid school from an early age, time on iPads, and religion than I was and that I would prefer for them. However, they also have access to more extended family on a regular basis (my parents were mostly on their own) meaning a calm and regular schedule not depending on my workdays or moods, they speak several languages, while I only spoke Swedish until English was introduced in class 4. They eat less processed foods as that is not affordable in Ghana and know from our chicken and rabbit farms how meat gets on the table.

The behavioral culture in Ghana differs from the culture in Sweden in most ways from how to greet someone (a lengthy conversation including nicknames, hand holding, asking of family vs. “hej”) to how to behave as a child (don’t speak until spoken to vs. do what you want, you are a kid!). Generally, while I am still learning how to behave – I imagine it is good to know that contexts matter.

I do not usually worry much about this, mostly because as you can see, I think it evens out pretty much. Every time and place is different. Knowing different cultures is a definite advantage in every way. But as a parent, sometimes, like today, I just long for the 1980ies Swedish playful daycare “dagis”, no pressure, no religion or threat of the cane, meatballs and potatoes with a glass of milk for lunch, stuff I know and understand for my children.

Photo: Selma and Ellen getting a weekend lesson in plucking a hen from their cousin and his girlfriend who live with us.

This post is part of a series of posts about parenting.

We Will Always Have Paris

After a work meeting in the beginning of January, I got to spend a few days in Paris. I shared my experience on Instagram, but typing on my phone in the chilly winds of Paris, I might have left out some details.

Here are my Paris takeaways:

Paris, the city of AMOUR

Even when it rains sideways, this is such a romantic city. The warm lights from the vintage streetlights, the cafes with lovers everywhere, and the sound of the inexplicably romantic French Oui, Oui, mon cheri! Over 10 years ago, when I first started blogging (my first blog post was the complete lyrics of an Edith Piaf chanson) I lived in Paris for 5 months. I did not have any exciting French affairs, but as the city slowly melted (I was there Feb-May) and trees started to blossom, strolling passed La Tour Eiffel, Odeon, Pont Neuf, I was convinced – Paris is the city of romance and amour.

Paris, the city of ART

I saw an art exhibit at the Grand Palais where I do not think I ever went before. The magnificent neoclassical styled building hosted the Expo Mexique (hashtag #ExpoMexique) which covered the dialectic art between France and Mexico in the time period 1900-1950, of course including the world famous artist couple Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. But much more, it contextualized their work in very interesting ways. I came out with ideas on the political aspect of art and the fact that Kahlo was very much in the centre of a movement, not a unique painter. I crossed the street to Petit Palais and saw Kehinde Wiley’s (follow on Instagram @kehindewiley) political, contemporary art where black bodies have been painted exquisitely and in very large scale into poses usually reserved for the (white) upperclass and (white) saints. Set in detailed ornamented rich, rich, rich backgrounds. Bliss.

Paris, the city of CHEESE

I learned that people in Paris really eat cheese everyday. It is done in a low key way, just munching on a few cheeses after dinner or lunch, of course after that comes the dessert! After my small introduction into the world of cheese by Monseigneur Raphael, I was immediately inspired and bought a 24 month old Compte hard cheese and two goat cheeses, a Mothais a la Feulle and a Crottin de Chavignol. (Links to an interesting online cheese resource I just found!)

Paris, the city of FRIENDSHIP

When I lived in Paris in 2006, it was the beginning of my blogging days, it was also days of important friendships. This time I made new friends and importantly also was able to meet some old ones. In much it was like no time had passed. Although our lives had moved on, our conversation just started from where we were back then. How lovely is not that?

Paris, the city of RACISM and SEXISM?

Not all is dandy and well in Paris, the entire central city seems to be marred with the male white gaze and voice. I saw sexist adverts that would not fly in other places, rode very internationally looking metros to come up to a very white world above ground, and was struck by how on TV there were so many ugly, white men…

Paris, the city of DID I ALREADY SAY FOOD?

In France, the petit dej’ or breakfast is a croissant, a full fat delicious yoghurt, a cafe creme, that is; to die for.  In France, you order a Menu including a glass of red wine and a starter FOR LUNCH.  In France they have a dessert that is called Cafe Gourmand which is – hold on tight – three! OR MORE! different! desserts! in one order! The capital of France is Paris, hence the center of some of the best inventions in food are concentrated here.

Next Time in Paris?

Next Time I go to Paris, I think I might stay a little longer, bring my family (to make the place a bit more female and a bit more brown-skinned), eat more croissants…

Sunday Reads are back! #KajsaHASundayReads

sundayreadsThis week I read:

  1. First things first: Bank of Ghana orders Swiss Gold watches for half a million USD.
  2. This touching article about Serge Attukwei Clottey and how he keeps the memory of his mother alive. (If you never read my Ashesi colleague Eli Tetteh’s piece on Clottey, do!)
  3. A passionate support for feelings by one of my favorite contemporary thinkers Martha Naussbaum, brought to us by the brilliant Brainpickings site.
  4. About our time: Post Truth Politics by the Economist.

This Swedish article I wish was available in English for all (ok, more folks) to read:

5. A fantastic article on the modernity of Swedish writer Sara Lidman’s work in the 1950s, by literature prof Anneli Bränström Öhman.

This week I watched this video, because: Standing ovation even before he said teachers are underpaid!


 This post is part of my #KajsaHASundayReads series. Inspired by personal role models, Ory Okolloh Mwangi and Chris Boatman,  I want to share articles I read with my followers on a somehow regular basis. 

African Fashion Week in Sweden #AFWS2016





14188586_946147242163470_9208120836886791545_oIt is the time of the year when otherwise gray and black clothed Stockholmers can OHHHH and AAAHHH to beautiful wax print, refined raffia, and curve hugging colour!
The African Fashion Week Sweden is on its third year and growing strong! Founder Ayesha Jones who also started the Gambia Fashion Week, explains in a blog interview why she started the week:

“I felt Sweden was lacking a platform for black/African creativity to be uplifted and celebrated. In a society were people are so diverse and multicultural I don’t understand why no one did this before me and I’m a strong believer of not pointing out flaws if I don’t have suggestions on how to adjust them.

I also wanted to do something that hopefully would leave an impact in the world and create a legacy that the next and future generations can be proud of and enjoy.”

I have my agents out and hope to give you more info after the main event today, 3rd Sept.

As a Swede living in Africa, I am so happy the fashion conscious but very conservative Swedes finally get a flavour of African fashion!

 

Why I Attend Chale Wote Street Art Festival!

Spirit robot partIn August CHALE WOTE is coming! The street festival enters its fifth year with the awesomest theme ever: SPIRIT ROBOT! It just does something to my imagination: spirit! robot! 

The festival has been announced to run from Aug 18-21 with LABS @ CHALE WOTE on Aug 18-19. I understand that as the main, public part of the festival is the weekend 20-21 August, 2016. Location: Jamestown, Accra.

I will be going to the festival with my entire family. I am especially looking forward seeing the festival through my now five year old child’s eyes and seeing my teen relatives’ reactions. Personally, I am attending for the people, the art-meets-community, the fabulous fashion, the street food, and the general feeling of marvel.

Do you not also want to be part of the Chale Wote Spirit Robot?

Spirit Robot is described like this on the organiser Accra Dot Alt website:

 In 2016, we ramp up the energy of CHALE WOTE by building a universal TRANSmitter  – a singular architecture – that we call SPIRIT ROBOT. This immersive memory-tech presents a world within a world where life can be structured on different terms.

CHALE WOTE 2016 exists as an interconnected system of pan-African geometry shifting. SPIRIT ROBOT  is a sacred current that decodes worldly systems of racist capitalism, alienation and subjection. SPIRIT ROBOT mutates these frequencies as a way of creating new histories, art and knowledge.

Robot points to mechanical forces that restrict our right to be human – to feel and to express – and to be free. Robot signifies the machine – the myriad constraints that people of African descent on the continent and around the world confront on a daily basis with our very lives. SPIRIT ROBOT reprograms history by melding West African mythology, cosmogramming, and artistic practice in a radical unveiling of alternative African realities. Together we animate stolen dreams, deferred inventions, and lost science through an intercultural kinship. We reclaim memory maps about who we are and where we are going.

What we are speaking of is Spirit – a collective creative process that is human and metaphysical, potent, available and abundant. Spirit is on the move through a series of portals – doors of persistent return – that open up a blueprint for radical reconstruction of our realities and pan-African building.  It refers to the energetic abilities we employ to create a new encounter with reality that is entirely of our choosing and construction. Here we access liberating spaces of art and possibility, embedding our codes of connection in a live archive that we continue to build upon.

How do we create intentionally coded spaces – an algebra of minds – that can be grasped and shared? In 2016, we build bridges of possibilities between us, connecting our visions of reality with one another and the challenge to dig deeper. Stretching these projects together into a meta-network is an act of deep engagement with community, and an exercise in countering historical forms of hierarchyexclusionfracture and disharmony.

With SPIRIT ROBOT, we construct and amplify our own technologies to create a spectacular present where are we free .

See my earlier posts on Chale Wote Festival 2011, 2012, 2013 (no photos), 2014.

 

Mobex16 and some thoughts on how event organisers in Ghana can better engage with social media influencers

On Tuesday, I went to the tech fair Mobex16 in the Accra International Conference Center. I had only planned to swiftly stop by, but ended up staying all morning. Networking was great!

However, this blogpost is on some other observations I made in relation to Mobex16. I came with my phone, ready to tweet, and laughingly told a friend that I have been here for 8 min and already posted 3 tweets. I was on fire!

I tweeted about the registration and started taking photos for Instagram. I am a promoter of all things Ghana, especially tech stuff, and I was happy to share the experience with my now 9000+ followers on Twitter and 600+ followers on Instagram.

At this stage, I needed to charge my computer (as I really had plans of working out of an office) and with heavy tweeting during the opening and the president’s speech, my phone as well. Now there were no electrical sockets in the seminar room. I looked around and asked an usher. I tweeted about that.

After realising that no woman was to appear on the stage for the first two programs on the agenda or the entirety of my morning visit – the info I took from a information that was passed out to visitors, I tweeted about that.

Revisiting my Twitter timeline, I was likely inspired by Omojuwa (recently named Africa’s best Twitter profile) and his tweet on female leadership:

After I had left the seminar hall in search for power, I browsed the exhibit. Noticing that many Mobex16 stands did not really have a plan to engage with social media influencers, I talked to some exhibitors and tweeted about that.

You get my drift, I was engaging with the program, capturing both highlights and lowlights.  Tweeting and Instagramming. Now some did not like that:

…and my personal favorite:

I get it, I have been an event organiser and its not necessarily fun to hear about someone’s negative experience when you have been working 24/7 to even make the thing happen, but I do listen and think to myself “how can I improve?” I also try to be mindful of that whoever takes the time to write to complain, cares a whole lot more than the people that just “come to eat”. (Caveat: I am not sure what the relationship between the people behind the sour tweets above is to the event discussed).

A few months back, Poetra Asantewa  in an AccraWeDey-podcast said some very useful things about critique and how there is little room for it in the Ghanaian creative space. We just need to change that, so in the name of constructive critique, I’ll list some ideas for even better social media engagement for Ghanaian events below.

Tips for event organisers how to better engage with social media influencers:

  • Communicate a (usable, not too long, not too generic) hashtag and remind people in every room, space and on everything printed.
  • Create a physical space for social media influencers with sockets (most importantly, but perhaps also), coffee, desks with chairs and additional info on your program.
  • Think through what is in it for the (professional) social media influencer, can you pay for live-tweeting & blogging, or provide lunch, pay T&T, organise gifts from sponsors? Every post about your event is potentially valuable to you, how can you make the relationship with influencers sustainable?
  • Retweet/ share their praise. People on their way to the venue will want to see photos and reviews from the venue.
  • Corteusly respond to any critique as fast as possible. (Yes, that includes saying thank you to someone who is finding fault with your event!)

Something like this:

What would you add to the list?

Seinabo Sey’s Statement at the #Grammis16 Awards Made Me Think

Swedish-Gambian artist Seinabo Sey has become a big star in Sweden over the last year with her big voice, straightforward songs, and performances in all the important places (even Conan O’Brian). This week, she was given the prestigious closing performance slot of the Swedish music awards, the Grammis. There she also won the Pop Award of the year.

I had heard of her performance, and this evening, I decided to watch the entire awards gala. After 17 awards, finally it was time: Sey is alone on stage, lit from a spotlight above creating a beautiful classical singer aura and start singing her song “Easy”. After the wailing intro, a row of black women dressed in all black walk in to stand behind Sey, more keep coming, and more again, they are so many they fill up the stage and one row also comes in just below the stage. Sey segways into the song “Hard Time” where the lyrics go: hard time forgetting/even harder to forget/before you do same/you might regret/ The women have a neutral or even serious look on their face and “just stand there”.

It was amazing! See for yourselves!

After the performance Sey has gotten the question of what she meant by the performance. To the Swedish Television Company, SVT, she said:

– Jag vill att folk ska tänka själva. Det är konst – det är ljud och bild – och jag tror att människor gör mer när de får tänka själva än när de blir tillsagda vad de ska tänka.

– I want people to think for themselves. It is art – it is sound and image – and I think people do more when they are allowed to think for themselves than when they are told what to think.

Such a great and educative answer.

Her performance was most definitely a political statement and watching the clip from Ghana what went through my mind was: “I have never seen that many black women at once in Sweden, but they are there, they are there to stay, they are all ages, all shapes and sizes, all types of hair styles (gotta love black women!), they are there, how are they treated? How does it feel to be black in a political climate of xenophobia and outright racism? How does it feel to be a black woman in Sweden today? How will my daughters feel if they decide to live there?”

Earlier in February, I heard someone (blogger Ebba Kleeberg von Sydow?) review the Stockholm fashion week and comment there was surprisingly little political commentary in the fashion when Sweden is going through turbulent times politically. I was happy to see that did not happen to the yearly show-off of the Swedish music industry.

To use one’s platform is a requirement. Well done, Seinabo Sey. 

Glamorous Launch of An African City [Video from Auntie Oboshie]

On Thursday, I was at the glamorous launch of An African City, Season 2 that I blogged about some two weeks ago. See me flash by a few times in black and white chevron print in this video by Ghanaian fashion promotor Auntie Oboshie.

The launch had everything one could ask for: Fabulous African couture (although I was for once wearing Swedish off the rack H&M), champagne, beautiful people who kissed my cheeks, and was cohosted by inspiring career coaches She.Leads.Africa in Accra’s freshest building the One Airport Square.

What could be more glamorous?