How did you get into the arts?
I started performing since age 19 without pay. When I was at the University I was making a list of great people and that had a positive influence on me. I started receiving pay as a professional in 2012 when I did a project for African Image,
after doing stage performances in 2010. I then developed interest in gallery, exhibitions as well. At age 6, I did my own helicopters, refrigerators and all kinds of toys.My first hint of multi-disciplinary career in art was biking, acrobatics and street fights.
How did people perceive the art you do?
The way I performed my art was unique and original. My art was not just about content but also the personality behind it. My art was seen different from other arts.
My family, including society didn’t really appreciate art because our culture isn’t made for us to appreciate art but it’s now better. Ghana is young when it comes to the arts.
How did the arts change your life?
(Eyes widen at the question) The arts taught me to have value for life and the things of life. Value for things that are not physical; your identity, image, and how value can open ones eyes to see and appreciate things and principles that can transform people. (He winks at me. I guess it’s another form of art).
How would you describe the art you do?
My art is unique. I call it “poetry installation”. It was what I did for African Image. They all started as words but not just mere words but words that have a connection with poetry and have depth. When I talk about words that have connection with poetry that is called “Romantism”, it’s a kind of poetry where everyday objects are given a unique and supernatural appeal. I also made short videos that captured the way I compose elements and objects and make videos of them. I call them ‘art video skits’. I also make good use of sound. I use sounds from the environment or unique phenomenon instead of sounds of normal music.
My brand is called Gari Foto Ventures. It captures everything I do. I use the name of gari foto because it’s all about promoting the values of our culture. I thought of an interesting name and bingo, Gari Foto just popped up. I consider the little golden grains of gari to mean richness, gold dust, etc. so you are as rich as Gari Foto.
That’s is quite amazing. The arts, is it impacting on Ghanaians?
I would say yes. We have traditional forms of art that are advancing.
Contemporary form of art began when Ghanaians started painting.
Is it lucrative? I mean the arts?
The Art is an ocean of ideas and it’s a big business just that it’s capital intensive. Everything we see around us is an art: the cars, bulbs, and myriads of designs are all art forms. Art is not limited to just painting, and designing. It’s sometimes challenging when it’s unique and you haven’t identified your target market. It then becomes difficult to get support and investors. When you have the passion to do it, you will make it because everything is so possible.
What about art in our schools?
Art is not so well represented in our educational institutions. There is still that post-colonial mentality that schooling is education where we were trained to administer what other people have produced. Parents are forcing their children to take after them in terms of career. Schooling has been limited to ‘read’ and ‘write’ and get a decent life and it works because that’s how the system has been. There is overburden of academic work and there is no room for creativity. E.g. students are studying medicine, law, science, sociology, and yet the schools have residence halls full of dustbins filled with rubbish, bathrooms are very dirty and that is the education they are receiving. We need the arts to make education flexible for creativity and the value it instills made visible. My company has art programs for students in schools. E.g., Dzembe drum is one of the biggest exports of African culture and art to Europe. Learning to play Dzembe is exploring rhythms from different cultures.
How is the Ghanaian art perceived by foreigners?
They are helpful to the art industry and they love African art.
They are interested in discovering new things that is in Africa and what is emerging.
They are also documenting African art but I don’t know how far they are using it to educate their people about Africa.
Art as a cure (medicine).
I work with some schools in different levels. It’s a combination of art and creativity. E.g. Artistically, if a child is good at mathematics, that’s okay. But we use art to channel their creativity to other fields in areas they are not so good at. In that way they are broadened and enlightened.
Art as a correctional project
Art can be used in prisons and mental rehab centers to help people recover and also get a better life through livelihood support systems. Some people who go to prison come back as deep thinkers, so instead of treating them as outcasts, the government can engage them in art centres and help tap their potentials and also generate employment and revenues for the country.
Is or are there any artist that influenced your life?
God is my greatest artist. Michael Angelo is a sculpture and he also inspires me.
Leonardo Da Vinci. I have a lot of artistic influences here in Ghana as well.
I can see you have more to share with us on the arts but time wouldn’t permit us for now. I will call on you again another time.
I ‘m always available, ready and willing to share what knowledge of the arts I’ve acquired throughout the years. Thanks so much for giving me this golden opportunity to share my experience in the arts with you and your cherished readers.