On the 26th of August 2021, Amoako Boafo, a renowned Ghanaian artist, became the first African to have his artworks flown into outer space on the New Shepard rocket ship by Blue Origin.
This historic event was viewed by a global audience and live streamed by international news outlets including Reuters, The UK Independent and Bloomberg. It was also witnessed by visual arts students in some selected senior high schools in Accra, Ghana.
This was in the form of an educational viewing experience curated through a partnership between Artlife Matters and Uplift Aerospace, a US-based aerospace company pioneering advanced technologies for a multiplanetary economy to revolutionize humanity’s connection with space and promote the conservation of Earth.
Artlife Matters’ partnership with Uplift Aerospace on the viewing of Amoako’s outer space artworks event has brought a renewed perspective to the creative arts industry in Ghana. “Watching this historic flight of Amoako’s artworks has given the Ghanaian creative industry a renewed hope and belief that one can reach higher heights with a focused career in the arts,” said Eric Agyare, Artlife Matters – Founder.
The partnership further gave visual arts students a rare opportunity to curate Amoako’s thought on the following issues concerning the industry.
Question: With reference to your DW documentary, you mentioned your mum was expecting a white-collar job instead of painting. Has this misconception changed when it comes to art as a respectable career in your locality? And what would this Art x Space project contribute to changing this misconception for parents and the everyday Ghanaian?
Amoako’s response: Maybe the perception may have changed in my locality, but on a national level, the culture of parents wanting kids to pursue white-collar jobs has still not changed. I mean we still have a long way to get this art thing to, to speak to parents. I think in a way we are getting there. People are a bit more open to whatever is happening in the art industry in Ghana. I think with this project I’m hoping that it will prompt the need for us to develop our art industry to create more careers locally and to make art an attractive career to pursue.”
Question: For someone like you who has gone through challenging times in your career and is currently seen as successful, what structures do you think should be implemented to help upcoming creatives avoid similar mistakes and to easily formulate a sustainable art career? What are you doing at your level to help?
Amoako’s response: I believe a lot more funding should go into the development of art in Ghana and Africa in general. An example will be a multi-level scheme that should be created to provide career-changing rewards for artists at various levels. There should be a lot more artist residencies. There should be a fund that artists can access to be able to work and not think so much of when they are going to sell another painting to be able to buy materials.
When these things are established, when these things are done and we have more infrastructure, more spaces to exhibit our works, maybe then, we would know that we are getting there. For sure this is not a one-man job and this is not only just for the government to do but I believe that with the help of the government and corporations at large, they could make this happen. Personally, I’m working on a few other projects that I think will bring change into the art space in Ghana and details of this project will be out soon.”
Question: In our current society, we mostly see people in similar fields as competition. How do you condition your mind to take criticisms from your peers? What do you look out for in choosing an artist for collaborations or to support?
Amoako’s response: I don’t, there is no way I will see another artist as a competition. I don’t think of other artists as competition or threats but I rather see them as collaborators. Art for me is dynamic and diverse and must be shared by all.
Question: What message do you want to send to that young girl bleaching her skin, when you successfully launch your dark skin characters into outer space?
Amoako’s response: Well if you look clearly at my paintings, its primary idea is to document and celebrate blackness. So I would like a world where people of all colours and gender would truly embrace who they are. I mean it is the sole idea of my work to be able to have faith in and to be more confident in yourself. I would hope that when this happens people will look at themselves and appreciate who they are. I wish readers will understand the significance of this history and that, everyday Ghanaians would be more liberal and supportive of what the country can achieve through the arts. And that every Ghanaian kid can freely pursue a sustainable art career.
As the New Shepard rocket ship landed on earth, Founder of Blue Origin and world’s richest man Jeff Bezos sent a congratulatory message to Amoako Boafo via Instagram. “Congrats to the @blueorigin team on another successful launch — the eighth for this particular vehicle. And congrats to @amoakoboafo for creating the stunning art that flew into space this morning on New Shepard’s parachute covers. #GradatimFerociter”. The podcast is to be released on IG: @artlifematters, YouTube: Artlife Matters and Web: www.artlifematters.org