Exploring Ghana, With Contemporary Art as a Guide

A globalized art market has brought attention to Ghanaian artists like Ibrahim Mahama. On an arts-focused trip to the West African country, a writer finds a thriving scene following its own agenda.

In late 2022, I was invited to go to Ghana with a friend researching work by the Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama, who first made a splash at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015. We were going to Ghana to learn about the context of his work and also to understand the emerging contemporary art scene in the country.

Over the past few decades, the art world has opened up beyond Europe and North America to create a more globalized market. In recent years artists like Mr. Mahama, and the fellow Ghanaians El Anatsui and Amoako Boafo have risen to prominence. We wanted to learn how that attention had affected contemporary art in Ghana.

We planned to spend most of our time in Accra, the capital and where most of the country’s established galleries are, and then to travel north, first to Kumasi, home to the country’s prestigious Faculty of Art at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and the former seat of the Ashanti Kingdom, and then even further north still, to Tamale, where Mr. Mahama has opened several sites for contemporary art.

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