Performance art has, without doubt, been prevalent in Ghana for generations but a sort of renaissance is gradually unfolding following bold performances by artists like Bernard Akoi Jackson, Akwele Suma Glory and Olaniyi Akindiya from the last decade and half or so.
Since then, a number of highly charged performances have rocked Accra and beyond during exhibitions involving both local and foreign artists.
Undeniably, these acts were technically and intellectually thorough as well as complex and multi-faceted, though they appeared to be quite simple.
In recent years, the Chale Wote Street Art Festival, which is becoming a powerful fixture on the Ghanaian arts scene, has been noted for presenting performing artists from Ghana and abroad.
During the 2015 edition of the festival, South African artist / photographer, Dean Hutton, Italian artist Natascia Silverio and Ghanaian artists, Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi (crazinisT artisT) and Serge Attukwei Clottey, who appeared with a retinue of performers, managed to challenge conventional and past artistic values as they emphasised the human body’s role in art.
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Dubbed ‘African Electronics’, their performances comprised an interaction of nudes and semi nudes, wires, chains and ropes which challenged our perceptions about how nude bodies could be shown in public.
With her naked body and hair painted in gold and a school bell tied to her waist by means of a rope, Hutton moved along the streets of Jamestown in Accra with a majestic awe as she laid bare the sacred nature of the human body and its ability to transmit messages.
Though she may not meet beauty standards elsewhere, Hutton surely met the benchmarks in James Town with her body as both men and women stared in awe, with some ladies stealing ‘jealous’ glances.
Much of Dean’s work is concerned with social issues, including the rights of women and the dispossessed while giving a voice to those rarely heard above the furore of mainstream media coverage and middle-class indignation.
A “duet” by Fiatsi and Silverio created a “tremor” effect as a totally naked Fiatsi, and painted in black, lay motionless while Silverio, with a piece of cloth around her breasts and waist, sat over him in a rather listless yet equally mobile manner as wires and other items interconnected.
In all, three performances by the duo were put together as one installation piece that explored the collective flow of energy from three different power stations to question our discernment of issues such as sexuality, race, gender and culture.
Young dynamic artist, Attukwei Clottey, led a procession of artists. With a facial mask fashioned out of plastic gallons with his legs and feet tired in ropes, he effectively charmed the audience as he moved from street to street commenting on social and environmental justice.
Art lovers in Ghana must be poised for more of this approach to making art which is set to continue challenging, engaging and confronting the population at large.