There’s no limit to art; Akwele Suma Glory

BY: By Efia Akese
Ms Glory painting on a canvas
Ms Glory painting on a canvas

To multifaceted Ghanaian artist, Ms Akwele Suma Glory, art has no limit and so though it is important for artists to have people who guide them in their careers, they must stay true to themselves and not just copy.

In an interview with The Mirror at the Charway Art Studio at La in Accra last Wednesday, Ms Glory said she had the opportunity to understudy renowned artists such as Chris Charway of Charway Art Studio, in Ghana, Kossi Assou of Centre Artistik, Togo and many others but stayed relevant in the industry as a result of her passion for art and her readiness to research, learn and develop her skills.

“There is nothing more important in art than being yourself, trying to copy or creating similar works won’t take you anywhere. Every artist has his or her thumbprint. Art is a process, so to succeed artists must be focused and not try to get to the top in a short while. As you work and develop yourself, you attract all the good things that come with it,” she explained.

Interest in art
Ms Glory who turned 60 on August 1, 2021 belongs to a family of artists; her grandmother who raised her was a traditional artist with expertise in body painting and beadwork and so she developed interest in art right from childhood.

Later, she decided to start reading about art and joined the Ghana Beads Society where she had a huge exposure to beadwork and then started manufacturing her own beads at Krobo Odumase in the Eastern Region under Cedis Beads, a renowned glass bead manufacturer.

Ms Glory is one of the pioneers in the promotion of beadwork as an art form and as a trade.

Ms Glory started her journey in arts as a beads maker before adding fine arts

In the late ’80s, before the influx of foreign beads, she had started training people and manufacturing her own beads.

She has mounted numerous solo and group exhibitions of her bead craft since 1988 before switching to mainstream art (painting), in 2000.

She recounted that unlike most artists who had challenges mainly with their parents or guardians on their choice of profession, she had the support of her grandmother and her late uncle who was also a graphic designer.

She said although the painting industry was also male-dominated, in her case, it was the men she encountered in her early days who guided her and gave her all the support she needed.

One of Ms Glory’s handiworks

She was full of praise for Mr Chris Charway who took interest in her works and provided her with all she needed to create her first piece.

“When we met, I was already in the bead business but as soon as he saw my arrangements and use of colour, he said: “You are painting but with hard stuff, I think you can start painting.” He went ahead to get me my first brush, paint, canvas and everything I needed and since 1997, he has been by me. I also met other male artists who helped me so much.

“Some women such as Ms Betty Acquah, Ms Vicky Addo and Ms Selassie Sosu and others have also played important roles in the art industry. The difference is that unlike me, who does art full time, some of them are into other businesses and find time to do their paintings from time to time”.

Art underrated
Ms Glory said in Ghana, art did not get the attention it needed and so artists continued to struggle for recognition.

She said most people considered artwork as a secondary product and so in a project, anytime there was a financial challenge, it was the art part that was cut off.

Some of Ms Glory’s pieces

Also, fine or visual artists were not given the support and attention in the media compared to performing artists. “When our TV and radio stations give slots for arts and entertainment, all you see is music and dance. Others also think arts and culture are limited to drumming and dancing, forgetting that fine art is so important and all aspects must be given the needed recognition."

Ms Glory is a coordinator of international artists’ residency workshops and exhibitions in Ghana. She trains women in creative skills for economic development and empowerment.

Ms Glory speaking to Efia Akese, a reporter with The Mirror at the Chris Charway Art Studio at La

She is the President of Women’s Arts Institute Africa (wAiA), a group she founded with her colleague artist, Ms Mardey Ohui Ofoi in 2006.

The objective of the Foundation is to help women to improve their skills and develop themselves so they are able to compete in the art market.

An abstract painting

She is a resource person (Africa) for the WorldCraft Council, an Art Consultant for the Foundation of Female Photojournalists.

She operates her art business under the trade name Gloryartvenue, in Ghana.

She has contributed articles and materials immensely to art and jewellery books and journals including Art is Everywhere, Abhushan Jewellery Design Dialogue, Borneo International Bead Conference (BIBCo) coffee table journal.

Her work has been recognised and earned awards including ‘Fine Art Category’ Women in Creative Art Industry, Ghana, First Prize winner, ‘Expression by Ghanaian Artists’, An Art Competition - Attorney General’s Choice, Ghana, ‘Issa Kouyate Award’ for creativity and expression, Ewole Six, International Artists’ Residency, Togo.

Others include Quality Commitment Convention's Gold Star Award, Geneva, first position; Ethiopia-Ghana International Artists Solidarity Competition, Accra.

She also has a host of honours to her practice.

Some beneficiaries of the Women’s Arts Institute Africa

Ms Glory is a member of numerous professional bodies, holding offices in some of them including Pan African Circle of Artists, Ghana Chapter Convener, Ghana Bead Society, and Foundation for Contemporary Arts Ghana, Gbagba Art Foundation, Ghana Association of Visual Artists (GAVA), Founding Director, Global Network of Artists and Crafts Persons (GLONAC), Sub Saharan Women Painters, TAC-GH and Women's Movement Local Leader.

Ms Glory (middle) turned 60 last week and some of her old school mates surprised her with a cake

Her advice to upcoming artists is that although it was a tough industry, with hard work, consistency, passion and most importantly the grace of God, they would succeed.

“I want to encourage them to keep working hard, sometimes it is so demoralising but when you don’t give up and keep doing your best, you will certainly be rewarded for your efforts,” she said.