Igniting socio-political conversations through art

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If you appreciate political satire, you should visit and exhibiition by Bright Ackwerh at the RAW Spot Gallery, 5 Rhodes Avenue (corner Lucas Ave).

Through his sharp and unrelenting wit, Bright Ackwerh turns the tables on global leaders who have treated Africa and Africans with disregard, have positioned themselves as Messiahs, or have colluded with African elites. “Everyone wants to be the King or Queen,” says Ackwerh, who places characters such as Robert Mugabe, the Queen of England, Kim Jong-un, Xi Jinping, Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron, Emmerson Mnangagwa or Nana Akufo-Addo in funny situations in order to imagine how they would react.

Igniting socio-political conversations through his artwork and through social media, Ackwerh persistently keeps the difficult questions alive, prodding at complex global issues. “We’ve had instances where the narrative here has been presented by people looking from the outside, so it’s also important to present my or our view of the outside from Ghana,” says Bright.

The title of the RAW Spot exhibition, “Where de cho dey?” is Ghanaian Pidgin for “Where is the food?” and the works on show grapple with contemporary geopolitical crises through an analysis of food. Ackwerh questions the impact of global trade wars on local consumers, challenges Ghana’s ratio of food export to food import, and mocks the Ghanaian akonfem scandal.

In a series of works about China’s presence in Ghana, Ackwerh engages with the issue of galamsey (illegal mining) in Ghana, which has negatively affected the quality of water. While food security urgently needs to be addressed, the artist portrays the competition between Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal about who makes the best jollof rice as such a distraction that the Chinese President manages to sneak away with the continent in his hands.

At times, food is utilised literally or metaphorically as a form of protest: a traditional meal is horded in objection to neo-colonial greed and interference, a celebratory cake is smashed with a mallet, and tomatoes are thrown at a self-acclaimed Messiah.  Mischievously Ackwerh imagines Chef Mugabe adding poisonous spice to the Queen of England’s food, and then questions whether Mnangagwa’s response to the Queen is merely, “Tea again?”

The exhibition is part of the Mellon Humanities Seminar Series hosted by the School of Journalism and Media Studies with Fine Art, Creative Writing, Philosophy and ISER.

See www.ru.ac.za/artsofafrica or www.ru.ac.za/jms or the full Seminar programme (25 and 26 October). Bright Ackwerh will discuss his work and demonstrate his practice at 11:00 am on Thursday 25 October. The venue for the seminar is the Arts Lounge (5 Rhodes Ave, cnr Lucas Ave).

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