Art, Heart depicts the soul
A young Ghanaian sculptor, Kwame Akoto-Bamfo, has come up with a unique idea to memorialise the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, otherwise referred to as the Middle Passage, using only locally sourced materials.
Last week, the UNESCO Heritage Site of Cape Coast Castle, played host to an event “In memoriam: Portraits of the Middle Passage in Situ” under the auspices of the Ancestor Project, conceptualized by Kwame, depicting historical African creativity and culture.
At the event, visitors were given a rare glimpse of Kwame’s 1,300 piece collection which represents the multitude of Africans captured and taken to the Americas and the Caribbean from places like the Cape Coast and Elmina castles during the 16th -19th centuries.
The sculptures were strategically placed in situ, in the dungeons of the Cape Coast Castle to address, the middle passage journey , severally referred to as one of Africa’s holocaust. The total number of African deaths directly attributed to the Middle Passage is estimated at five million, therefore making the sea the largest cemetery of African diasporic peoples.
Kwame is a product of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and holds a BFA and MFA from KNUST. He is an award winning artist (Kuenyehia art prize for contemporary Ghanaian art 2015), as well as being a social entrepreneur.
Akoto-Bamfo is a multi-discipline artist whose breadth of works extends to both traditional media and digital art with an artistic practice involving painting, sculpture (wood, stone, terracotta, cement and metal as well as digital art (digital painting, digital sculpture, 3D modeling and animation).
In an interview with B&FT Lifestyle, Kwame said the Nkyinkyim Installation, is part of a much larger, Ancestor Project; which seeks to use art to educate the youth and empower them.
The exhibition at the Cape Coast follows previous installations dubbed the ‘Faux-Reedom Exhibitions’ at Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum/Memorial Park and Ussher Fort James Town. The exhibition also features a photography Exhibition of the previous installations by photographers Naa Abiana Nelson and Nii Odzengma.
Before the final installation at Ada where a commemorative museum will be built with an estimated total of 11,111 sculptures that will depict African heritage and historical narratives. Kwame Akoto-Bamfo intends to travel wide with the middle passage section of the Nkyinkyim installation.
Mr. Daniel Dunson , the curator of the “In memoriam: Portraits of the Middle Passage in Situ”’ exhibition, also reflected that the initiative is to honour the many slaves who lost their lives in the passage of the Trans-Atlantic Slavery by giving them a symbolic funeral. He also said that the artist took inspiration from Nsodie; Akan traditional Funeral terracotta portrait heads and that the artist’s
sculptures were more of a contemporary version of it.
Kwame adds that Nsodie; Akan terracotta head sculptures which were created by as an entourage for departed royals and occasionally prominent people. The nsodie sculptures are representational and may represent servants or loved ones who will accompany the dead royals to the underworld so that he/she may live a life similar to what they enjoyed in the land of the living. These sculpture were mostly created by women especially mbrewatia (old wise women) who were not only wise in the art of pot making and nsodie but also knowledgeable in the funerary rites and customs of their respective clans. Nsodie making was practised by the Akan (Ghana and Cote de Ivoire) unfortunately little is known about this sacred art form in our modern times except for the art pieces which can be found in a few shrines and also private collections and museums outside Ghana and Cote de Ivoire.
Mr. Daniel Dunson, a Fulbright Grant recipient and Gilman Scholarship Fellow, acknowledged the support of the United States Embassy in bringing the program to life.
The mission of the Ancestor Project is to help restore, preserve and perpetuate locally rooted African art, music, dance and literature and supporters can help clicking on the donate button at www.ancestorprojectgh.com .
The Production Consultant also spoke to B&FT Lifestyle, Sherrie Thompson who described the project as monumental. She said the sculptors reminds the viewer that there was once an African holocaust and it is a lesson to African ancestry that if we forget this sad event, we will be doomed to repeat mistakes of the past.
“It depicts the sacrifice Africa has made which suggests we need to rise above the sordid past so that the sacrifice does not become in vain”. Additionally, she said celebrating art is important to the culture of a people and a country that doesn’t celebrate art does not have a heart because art speaks to the heart of a people culturally.
Tourism is not only about building nice hotels for people to stay in but also encompasses art, fashion, music and dance since it familiarizes the visitor with the culture of the people. There is a need to celebrate art which is the soul of the nation, she added.
Sherrie originally comes from New York and settled in Ghana 21 years ago to enable her children experience the land of their father. The ancestor project was sponsored by the African American Association of Ghana, the US Embassy and the Ministry of Tourism.