by Anthony R. Green
It has been about a month since I left Ghana, and I still cannot stop thinking about the fantastic experience. After I gave the presentation (mentioned in the last BIBA blog), my time at the pIAR Residency kicked off in full gear. Here, I was joined by 3 other incredible artists: Wanda Gala (dance and more), Lena Czerniawska (drawing and writing), and Lena's husband Emilio Gordoa (sound art, percussion, improvisation). Other artists that were there (living and/or visiting often) are Martin Toloku (incredible performance artist), Original Bigwig (cartoonist, political satirist), Eric Acquah (hyper-realist pencil artist and fashion designer), Julius Quansah (dance and choreography), and others. From the open house and final exhibit, I also became acquainted with Lisa Soto and others who were studying at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). Lastly, the host is the incredible performance artist Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi or crazinisT artisT. Throughout the residency, I became much more familiar with her practice, and her former focus as a painter (with incredibly powerful, inventive canvases). Just the interaction with all of these artists made me grow in my practice and my awareness of other practices. I am eternally grateful, and look forward to future interactions with everyone I've met!
View to the entrance of the pIAR Residency, Kumasi
Throughout my time at the residency, I stumbled upon focusing on three paths of inquiry: questioning the similarities and differences between US American and African Blackness, investigating the role of Christianity in my life and in Ghana, and exploring the agency of oppressed peoples. I brought one of my toy pianos with me to Ghana, and made some recordings and gave some performances. Within how Christianity is practiced (or performed, as some would articulate), I've always felt a focus on perfection - one must attend church in one's best clothing (Sunday best) and present oneself with the utmost "perfection". At the same time, the Christian God is omnipresent and omniscient, and thus is intimately familiar with how everyone presents themselves at any given time in their life. Consequently, I used my toy piano (perhaps a "less perfect" little sibling of the piano) to perform songs from church in my less-than-perfect clothing, singing them with my less-than-perfect voice, but deeply intrigued by the responses, the interactions, and the connections that I could make with the Ghanaian audiences. In this vain, could my imperfection be sublimated by my honesty, earnestness, and sincere efforts?
An impromptu performance at a local market kiosk, Kumasi
For my final piece, I performed a performance art work which involved me wrapping myself in yarn. This simple act was a plea to have audiences question what the Bible says about poor, naked, sick, and hungry people helping themselves versus the focus on demanding others to help them. And when marginalized, oppressed peoples help themselves, what would that look like? Would it be enough? The 50-minute performance was well-received, and has urged me to explore the nature of this gesture in grander variations for the future. I definitely could not have created this work without being at this residency.
After leaving Kumasi, I returned to Accra for a day with so much more confidence and trust in myself as well as others. With this new-found attitude, I interacted with people more, I walked around Accra with more of a sense of purpose, and the flow of the city really came together. When I left Ghana, I left changed. I left feeling much more whole than when I entered. Lastly, I left knowing that I would return, and booked a return flight the week after I came home!!! So, BIBA readers, stay tuned for another BIBA series from Ghana AND from Kenya in January 2022!!!
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