Ten young artists eagerly looked forward to picking up the top award in the 2015 Kuenyehia Prize for Contemporary Ghanaian Art but it was Kwame Akoto-Bamfo who had the biggest smile across his face when he was announced as the winner at a ceremony in Accra.
Founded last year by lawyer, entrepreneur and art collector, Elikem Kuenyehia, the prize seeks to encourage young Ghanaian artists to pursue excellence in their careers.
Kwame Akoto-Bamfo holds a Master’s in Fine Art degree from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). He received Gh¢20, 000 in addition to art materials and business development support from the contest organisers.
The second and third prizes went to Kelvin Haizel and Isaac Addico respectively. They each received Gh¢2,500, art materials and business development support from the Kuenyehia Foundation.
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Held in a pop-up gallery at Labone, the simple ceremony imbued everyone around, including veteran artist, Prof. Ablade Glover, and famous gallery owner, Mrs Frances Ademola, with a glowing sense of hope that contemporary art has a future in the country.
The Kuenyehia Prize for Contemporary Ghanaian Art is currently limited to paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture, carvings and installation. Artists between 25 and 40 years old and living in Ghana are eligible to apply.
Elikem Kuenyehia spoke at the function and said “the history of this country cannot be fully told without acknowledging the contribution of our artists and their arts.”
He mentioned artists such as Amon Kotei, Theodosia Okoh, Fred Mantey and Kofi Antobam as personalities who made wonderful contributions that we all take for granted these days.
“Beyond cultural relevance, however, art really is serious money. Art is big business,” he added.
According to the founder of the prize, African art has become highly collectable in the major art capitals of the world and works by Nigeria-based Ghanaian artist, El Anatsui, for instance, sell for millions of dollars. To him, it is everybody’s duty to help create a vibrant art scene in the country.
Nigerian lawyer, businessman and art enthusiast, Gbenga Oyebode, was the special guest at the ceremony. He urged corporate Africa to invest more in the continent’s artists who work hard every day to make us happy.