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Kuenyehia Art Trust linking culture, tourism

BY: Kofi Akpabli
Art has strong linkages with tourism: (From left) Lois Arde-Acquah accepting her prize from Prof. Edwin Bodjawah of KNUST

Let me start by citing statistics which show that places which offer performing arts, museums and galleries are more important to many travellers than places that do not. This reality goes the same way for music festivals, traditional ceremonies, and traditional handicraft villages.

The arts motivate people to travel, enhance social pride, and contribute significantly to the region's economy. Having said that, let me add that it is crucial to recognise the important role that the government plays in the healthy development of the arts in the community.

However, when private individuals and institutions single-handedly take up the business of art and the arts that are taking it to a real heroic level. That is why this column is always touched by cultural institutions such as art houses whose activities and processes link up culture and tourism, and highlight what is unique about our communities.

The link between the arts and tourism creates the vibe of a city, and that attracts people. Diverse cultural organisations and attractions, such as museums, art galleries and festivals are the fabric of any community. And not just for the residents, but also for tourists, who contribute immensely to the community’s economic well-being.

 The tourism industry promotes a city’s artistic events, because those events are what attract people to the city.

The Kuenyehia Trust for Contemporary Art is a not-for-profit organisation established to, among others, support emerging and mid-career African artists.

What enamours me to this institution is the fact that they dare spread their tentacles beyond the shores of Ghana.

Since its inception, the Trust’s Kuenyehia Prize for Contemporary Art has received entries from over 631 artists from across West Africa.

 A winner and two shortlisted artists share in prize money of ten thousand US Dollars ($10,000). All shortlisted artists participate in a month-long exhibition which is usually attended by many influential people in the art ecosystem including curators, gallerists and collectors.

In addition, the Trust developed a unique training programme, The Creative Accelerator Programme (‘CAP’), which trains artists to be able to develop sustainable and profitable artistic practices.

This training sets these artists apart from other artists because it equips them with key entrepreneurial skills and practical tools they can deploy immediately.

The idea is to provide winning artists a toolkit to enable them to create value out of their work for the rest of their careers and to build brands that will ensure they command premium prices for their work should they be commercially minded.

The Trust is currently receiving entries for its sixth edition of the Kuenyehia Prize. Another exciting thing this year is that they have lowered the age to participate and the Prize is now open to visual artists between the ages of 18 to 40 from and living in West Africa.

All interested artistes have to log on to the website www.kuenyehiaprize.org  and SIGN UP to stand a chance to get part of $10,000 worth of cash prize, art supplies, personal development, business training and coaching.

Set up in 2014 by Professor Elikem Nutifafa Kuenyehia to, among others, promote and advance contemporary African art.

 The first Edition of the Prize was in 2015 with Akoto Bamfo emerging as the Winner. If you know of the wonderful art exhibition which is drawing tourists to Ada, that is Akoto!

As we speak this artiste was in 2018 honoured when his outdoor sculptures dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, {Nkyinkim}, are on display at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice that in Montgomery, Alabama.

Other Kuenyehia Prize winners are Bright Ackwerh, Isaac Opoku, Yaw Owusu, and the only woman so far, Lois Selassie Arde-Acquah.

The Prize’s previous winners and shortlisted artists have had opportunities to showcase their work at leading art fairs such as FNB Johannesburg Art Fair and at events in the United States and Spain. The prominence that the Trust gives to artists provides them with an accelerated career boost, direct financial gain, and immense opportunity both locally and internationally.

 The Prize has also built collaborations with renowned cultural institutions including the British Council Accra, ANO Gallery, Alliance Française, and the Dei Centre for Contemporary African Art. The prestigious Art House also organises thought leadership seminars - Telling Tall Stories - contribute efforts to refocus intentional attention on art policy and practice in Ghana. Past discussions have centred on the role of the arts in the making of societies. 

According to Prize Coordinator, Isaac Ashalley, the number and quality of submissions continue to increase each year. “Last year, we received 266 entries from artists in 14 West African countries, with Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal making up the majority.

 For 2022, we expect there will be even more entries and that the entries will be of an even higher standard”.

In this sixth edition, they have lowered the age to participate and the Prize is now open to visual artists between the ages of 18 to 40 from and living in West Africa.

 My advice? If you know someone who knows someone who is a fine artist let them go for it! www.kuenyehiaprize.org.