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Oforiatta-Ayim and Ghana’s map of cultural thinkers

By Billie Adwoa McTernan in Accra
Posted on Thursday, 23 January 2014 15:50

Under an organisation she founded in 2002 called ANO, 35-year-old Oforiatta-Ayim has begun to facilitate international residencies for young Ghanaian artists.

My projects and ideas have a long incubation

“The idea is to help the artist at the early stage of their career to find a foothold within the art world here [in Ghana] and also internationally so they don’t feel like they have to go and live in London or Paris or New York in order to be artists.”

She says the situation is not easy for Ghanaian artists.

The country’s only degree-level art programme is at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).

“What’s coming out of the faculty of KNUST is an amazing generation of talented artists,” says Oforiatta-Ayim.

But she laments that “they open up their talent and don’t have anywhere to put it after they leave.”

She has worked with a recent KNUST graduate, Ibrahim Mahama – whose work has attracted the attention of galleries and collectors in Africa and Europe – who began his residency at Gasworks in London in October.

She is also working to set up her own residential space for artists in the mountains of Ghana’s Eastern Region.

The idea, she says, would be to create fellowships, hold workshops and create a “pan-African network of cultural thinkers”.

After working on the book Visionary Africa: Art at Work, which took its lead from an exhibition by Ghanaian architect David Adjaye, Oforiatta-Ayim decided she wanted to map cultural trajectories and institutions from past to present in Africa.

Starting in Ghana, she is creating a continental cultural encyclopaedia and will look for collaborators from across Africa.

She has also started an archiving and preservation project of the work of older Ghanaian artists with the world- renowned photographer James Barnor.

She is working to digitise some of his work and to put together a monograph about it. Ghana’s first professional female photographer, Felicia Abban, is next.

As a filmmaker, Oforiatta-Ayim often deals with social issues.

She does so in a new film called Jubilee, which was released in September and compares the oil industries in Ghana and Norway.

She is also working on a film project called Mobile CineLab, which has the goal of bringing weekly screenings of independent films from across the world to Accra.

“My projects and ideas have a long incubation,” she says.

And now is the time for them to come to fruition. ●

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