Renowned Spanish painter Pablo Picasso once said: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up”. Well, Kizito grew up with it – and today it has taken him places. His amazing paintings have earned him both a local and international reputation. For him, his aim is to tell the African story using art. Read on as he shares his story with the B&FT’s Inspiring Startups.
Kizito Nii Armah Amartey grew up in Cape Coast, Central Region of Ghana, where he was raised by his grandmother. He is a product of Adisadel College, where he read visual arts. Growing up, he was always interested in doing creative things. He would design greeting cards for friends and families during their birthdays and other memorable occasions.
This passion never left him as he grew up. When he went to Adisadel College, he was initially admitted as a business student. But as an Irish proverb says, ‘your feet will bring you where your heart is’; he indeed found his feet in the visual arts class—where his heart is.
People began to take note of his great work right from that time. Once, they did a project and during the exhibition his work caught the attention of the Cape Coast Chief, who bought it at a good price.
Then he proceeded to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), where he graduated with a degree in Fine Arts (Painting) in 2010.
As a former employee of the Centre for National Culture, he was assigned the role of an educational tour guard. There, he realised that art could actually be a business as he observed many artists cashing in on their products.
But Kizito meant business. He first of all decided to upgrade his knowledge in business before he entered full-time. He enrolled at the University of Ghana Business School for a second degree in Master of Business Administration.
St. Kizito means business
After Kizito completed his second degree, he then felt ready and fortified to launch his brand under the brush name St. Kizito.
Since its launch, St. Kizito has registered its name among the top paintings in Ghana and even beyond. He has held several exhibitions in Ghana and abroad.
Some few years ago he had the opportunity to travel to Oregon, United States, to train children aged between 8-14 years for three months.
Also, in 2012, he together with other artists from 25 nations went to Iran for an art competition and exhibition, where he emerged among the top with his work.
Even though the art business is not a booming one in the country, Kizito is able to sell four or more artworks in a month owing to his finishing.
Prices of his work vary, given they all have different value. Some are sold between GH¢1,000-2000; others are even as high as GH¢8,000.
His work has been internationally recognised by foreign media, and he represented Ghana in an art exhibition in Manhattan, USA.
“The vision of St. Kizito is to primarily outdoor the intrinsic African values through art. We are losing touch with a lot of African values and we don’t want them to go extinct. So, I want to use art to show the world some of the African values and culture.”
How education has helped
“Education has given me the knowledge to support my business. I have a background in visual arts and business administration. So, as the visual arts gave me training in arts, business administration also gave me training in management, and this has helped me know how best to manage my business.”
Mode of marketing
In this modern era, no business can make it to the top by closing its eyes to the advantages social media bring. Kizito has accounts on social media sites such Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, where clients can see some of his work and also make contact with him.
A major challenge that Kizito says confronts the art industry in Ghana is lack of education about the value of art. This, he argues, has contributed to the low patronage of art in Ghana.
“Over the years, education has only been for artists but not the public. So, people have not been informed about the value of art – and that is partly the reason the industry’s growth has stagnated.”
Funding is also a challenge for players in the art industry. It is expensive to finish one piece of painting but there is no financial support for the industry. Artists have to heavily rely on their sales – which is not forthcoming – to produce, and this is making the industry unattractive to the youth.
Again, there is little done by government to help expose Ghanaian art to the world. In some jurisdictions, artists are sponsored by government to represent their country in art competitions and exhibitions, but that cannot be said of Ghana.
Also, the inadequate number of art galleries around the country has also contributed to the industry’s woes.
“As we speak now, there is no dedicated national art gallery where renowned artists’ work can be kept as a tourist attraction site. But every country that values arts has a gallery where the work of art-heroes are kept,” he said.
How should government support the industry?
According to Kizito, for the country to realise any economic gains, it is important that government supports artists with funding.
“I think government must allocate funding for the industry, whereby players can access funds to grow their business. If the art industry grows, the tourism industry also grows – and that will also bring in more income to government.”
What do you do for a hobby?
“Every artist loves nature, because it is nature that will inspire you to be creative. So, I like to visit sites and natural sceneries, so I travel round to observe nature when I take a break from work.”
“Art is a way of life and usually driven by passion. So, I would encourage young artists not to be disturbed when things get tough. They should rather push on and continue doing the work with passion, and definitely, one day, your work will be recognised.”