The Kuenyehia Trust for Contemporary Art has held its maiden thought leadership seminar on the role of the arts in the making of culture and nation-building at the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) in Accra.
In addition to setting up and running the prestigious Kuenyehia Prize for Contemporary Ghanaian Art, the Trust also organises other events and activities, in a bid to help develop artists and by effect, the arts in Ghana.
Last Wednesday, July 6, at the IEA, the seminar took the form of a panel discussion, under the theme; Telling Tell Stories. The four-member panel took turns to engage in lively conversation about the role that the arts in Ghana play in creating or deepening culture and building the nation.
The panel – composed of Professor Kwesi Wilson, Communications Studies Lecturer at College of Alameda in California, USA; Chef Selassie Atadika, founder of Midunu; Nana Kofi Acquah, renowned photographer and blogger; and Bright Tetteh Ackwerh, artist and winner of the 2016 Kuenyehia Prize for Contemporary Ghanaian Art – spent the evening reminding the audience and general public of the serious role the arts play in our lives.
To emphasise the seriousness of the arts, Prof Wilson remarked: “Our Visual Art, Culinary Art, performing art all have to aim at becoming something that others can notice and emulate. The person who controls content, controls what you think”, warning all of the powerful effect of the arts in shaping the thinking of a nation.
Nana Kofi Acquah, in agreement, painted a picture of roles that artists automatically have to play, asking “if artists don’t create space for the marginalized who will?” Observing the reduced effort applied to that role in Ghana for some time, he reminded artists “we have to first start in a place of creative integrity as artists. That’s where the transformation starts. We have to wake up and create as artists. Let’s get serious. Our art influences the generations.”
For Chef Selassie, founder of Midunu – a lifestyle company aimed at celebrating Africa’s cultural and culinary heritage, and who are behind the symbolic nomadic dining events in Accra – even things that we may take for granted, like food, provide a good start for building a nation.
“Let’s begin with having pride in our food and ingredients. The rice we have come to love and enjoy in Ghana is not from here, frozen chicken is not from here, the tomatoes are from Burkina Faso,” she noted, giving a reality check on what we call “Ghanaian food”.
“A lot of the stories that we young people tell are ignored”, said Bright Tetteh Ackwerh, on the role of young artists in the making of culture. He celebrated the many young ones still striving to deepen the role of arts, citing the example of AccraDotAlt – organisers of the Chale Wote Street Art Festival – and cheering them for “swerving the system” to achieve success in spite of the odds.
The seminar was attended by a cross-section of the public. Artists, educators, business executives, and musicians took opportunity of the holiday to participate in the event and benefit from the enriching discussion. It was moderated by Michael Amaning of Invest In Africa (IIA), who reminded everybody that “artists are our historians.”
The seminar is part of the Kuenyehia Trust’s mandate of helping lift the arts, and was aimed at talking about the narratives that arouse the consciousness of the ordinary man. The Trust, in addition to organising the annual Kuenyehia Prize for Contemporary Ghanaian Art, organises art-related events – exhibitions, viewings, talks – all focused at the development of the arts in Ghana.