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Conversations on the Creative Arts in Ghana

Is there really hope for the future?

The Creative Arts Basket

Two friends were discussing the work of the realigned Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts following President Mahama’s creation of the new ministry and it was such an interesting intercourse.

One asked his friend “Boosu, what’s the link between Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts and the difference between Chieftaincy and the Traditional Affairs?” His bemused friend was like, “Charley if I tell you that I know then I am deceiving you. The only thing I know is that the minister is a lawyer and her deputy is an industry person so let’s wait and see what they do. Now these are two supposedly knowledgeable gentlemen with huge reputations in showbiz at least in West Coast terms; talking about the Creative Arts scene in Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire and Sierra Leone!!!

This conversation about the creative arts shows the lack of knowledge about the sector and its linkages and what it has to offer to the nation as a whole in terms of revenue, job creation and image. Indeed, its little wonder that the United States of America is perceived as the number one country in the world largely because of the power of Hollywood in shaping peoples thinking and American music which has continued to dominate the global music scene with Hip Hop and R&B, two music forms that have influenced and continue to influence music internationally.

Just about a decade ago, the image of Nigeria as a nation was one of massive corruption and fraud. This was the global perception with the popular ‘419’ scam.  Today Nigeria’s image has dramatically improved with its movies which showcase the country in a different light. The Nigerian movie industry is currently rated as the third biggest in the world after Hollywood in the United States and Bollywood in India.

In April 2014, Nigeria rebased its economy after twenty-four years resulting in a new GDP figure of $ 509.97bn. The rebased GDP figure made Nigeria the largest economy in Africa and the 26th largest in the world. This increase in GDP was due to the tabulation of the list of activities making up the GDP from 32 to 42. New sectors such as arts, entertainment and recreation especially the music and film industries as well as beverage and tobacco among others were added.

By capturing the contribution of the previously underestimated sectors, the Nigerian economy showed a different picture. Without a doubt, the Ghanaian movie industry ranks high in Africa with some pundits placing it behind the South African movie industry. It is therefore noteworthy that the entire Creative Arts well organized and resources have a huge potential for our national development in terms of revenue generation and job creation – from movies, heritage sites through music among others.

For example, in the not too distant past, musicians were really not considered as making a meaningful living from their profession. However, this has changed. Recently Hammer of the Last 2 fame narrated a story. According to him, ace hiplife artiste Sarkodie shared an amount of GHC 50,000.00 to a number of his associates as their Christmas present. This shows that Sarkodie had made so much money during the year that giving his associates so much cash as bonus for the year was in order. On his part, Dancehall act Shatta Wale also reported that he made over GHC 300,000.00 from shows and endorsements in 2015. The Comprehensive Survey of the Music Sector conducted by KPMG in 2013 puts earnings of that year from music at over GHC 280m. Other artistes made huge takings from their performances and endorsements and the movie stars, producers and painters are also reporting good revenues – at least those who have paid their dues and made it as they say. The likes of John Dumelo, Yvonne Nelson, Shirley Frimpong Manso and Samini are all engaged in various charity activities, a reflection of their wealth and status in society. Cumulatively, its therefore obvious that the Creative Arts have so much to contribute.

Ghana – a brief History

For both Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians who are reading this book, particularly the younger generation, a brief look at the history of Ghana is appropriate to situate the current happenings in the Creative Arts in proper perspective.

Prior to independence, Ghana was called the Gold Coast. The country is bordered on the south by the Gulf of Guinea, on the west by Cote d’ Voire, Burkina Faso on the north and Togo on the east. It is the country closest to the center of the earth and the Greenwich Meridian passes through Ghana while the equator is a few miles away in the Gulf of Guinea. There are six ethnic groups in Ghana namely the Akan, Ewe, Ga-Adangbe, Mole-Dagbani, Guan and Gurma with nine state sponsored languages. These are Akan spoken in the Ashanti, Central and Eastern regions; Dagaare spoken in the Upper West region; Ga spoken in the Greater Accra region along with Adangbe; Dagbane spoken in the Northern region and Ewe in the Volta region. The rest are Gonja in the Northern region, Nzema in the Western region and Kasem in the Upper East region. In addition to this there are over eighty languages spoken all over the country by the over seventy tribes making up the ten administrative regions in the country.

Ancient Ghana

When Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah declared independence, the name Ghana had been chosen by the likes of Dr J. B Danquah and others who worked with in the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), the party Nkrumah broke away from to form the Convention Peoples Party (CPP). Although modern Ghana is not in the same geographical place as ancient Ghana, both countries have two things in common – the abundance of gold and salt. Ancient Ghana was located in the western Sahel between Mauritania, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali. The introduction of the camel in the region catalyzed the development of commerce, greatly reducing the travel time for merchants traversing the Trans Saharan caravan trade route. The ancient Ghana empire was the epicenter of trade with North Africa, Europe and Arabia. According to historians, by the fourth century AD ancient Ghana in existence and thrived till the thirteenth century when the rulers of the ancient empire of Mali replaced Ghana as the center of commerce and power in the region. Interestingly enough, Ghana was the name of the king and it meant warrior king. The name of capital city was also called Ghana while the country was called rather Wagadugu. Wagadugu means “grand or big Wa. Incidentally, Wa in the Upper West region of Ghana is the capital of the Dagaaba people who are kin to the Dagaaba of Burkina Faso whose capital today is known as Ouagadugu. The Akans and northern tribes like the Dagomba and Mossi of modern Ghana are believed to have migrated from the region of ancient Ghana. Some similarities between the public appearances of the ruler of ancient Ghana and the Akans is their magnificent display of gold ornaments, an indication of their wealth.

Early beginnings of modern Ghana

The Bonos who initially established their state in Bono Manso were among the earliest settlers in modern Ghana along with the Dagombas who met the Guans on the land already. As the Akans and Dagombas moved in from the north-west and the north-east respectively, they pushed the Guans from the Gonjaland areas in the north, further south into the forest regions and eventually the coast. Currently the Guans can be found in the Central, Volta, Eastern, Brong Ahafo and Northern regions. Meanwhile other tribes like the Gas and Ewes also came in from the south west from Ile Efe in Nigeria and Benin. Both tribes trace the source of their migrations to the Nile River in ancient Egypt. All these states had developed systems of government and administration and by the turn of the fourteenth century, they were all largely living in their current locations.

Against the backdrop of all these migrations and developments arrived the Portuguese in 1471. The Portuguese are said to have been fascinated by the fact that gold nuggets could be collected on the ground. Eleven years after their arrival they built their first fort, Sao Jorge da Mina meaning St George of the Mine in Edina now known as Elmina. This marked the beginning of a hundred-year dominance by the Portuguese which lasted till 1598 when the Dutch set foot on the Gold Coast. Within fourteen years of the arrival by the Dutch, they had also built forts in Komenda and Kormantin all in the Central region eventually replacing the Portuguese as the power brokers with their capture of the Portuguese forts in Elmina and Axim by the mid seventeenth century. Around that time as the Portuguese left the Gold Coast the English, Swedes and Danes joined the fray, jostling for dominance in the Gold Coast. With over thirty forts and castles belonging to the British, Dutch and Danish merchants all over the coast, the Gold Coast held the highest concentration of European military constructions outside Europe. The Dutch West India Company and the British African Company of Merchants held sway as the trade in the Gold Coast swung from gold and items like rum, mirrors etc. to the slave trade by the turn of the century. Eventually the Danes exited followed by the Dutch paving the way for British colonial rule as the Brits took over their possessions. 

British colonial rule

With the departure of the Dutch, the British declared the Gold Coast a protectorate of the British Crown in 1874. Prior to this, they had engaged in a series of wars with the Ashanti in particular. The Anglo Ashanti War from 1823 to 1831 resulted in the death of the British Governor Sir Charles Mac Carthy who was responsible for both the Gold Coast and Sierra Leone.  Mac Carthy met his death at the Battle of Nsamankow where he was beheaded and his gold rimmed skull used by various Ashantehenes (king of the Ashantis) as a drinking cup. By 1844, the British had forged alliances with various coastal tribes resulting in the Bond of 1844 with the Fante chiefs. The Bond of 1844 was pivotal in the British colonization of the Gold Coast. The British subsequently invaded Kumasi in 1874 declaring the Gold Coast a full British colony that same year and succeeded in driving the Asantehene into exile in 1896. In all, the Ashantis fought five major wars with the British between 1821 and 1901 with Yaa Asantewaa the Queen Mother of Ejisu emerging as the hero in the last one after which she was exiled along with the Asantehene Prempeh I to the Seychelles Islands. With Ashanti now part of the British Gold Coast, the British added the Northern territories in 1902 to form the bulk of what is now known as Ghana. British Togoland became part of Ghana after a plebiscite there in 1956 to become part of Ghana at independence in 1957.

The Road to Independence

The journey to independence started as far back as 1897 when a group of elites and traditional rulers formed the Gold Coast Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society (ARPS) which agitated against colonial rule. Twenty-three years later in 1920, the National Congress of British West Africa was formed by Joseph Casely-Hayford one of the leaders of the ARPS. Casely-Hayford’s vision was for a united West Africa which would lead to a Union of the African continent and black people worldwide. Therefore, by 1947 when Dr. Kwame Nkrumah returned home from his sojourn in the United States and the United Kingdom and joined the UGCC, there was already some agitation for self-determination. The only difference between Nkrumah and the other leaders of the UGCC who collectively made up the Big Six – Sir Edward Akufo-Addo, Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey, Dr Joseph Boakye Danquah, William Ofori-Atta, Ebenezer Ako-Adjei was that while he wanted independence now; the others wanted independence in the shortest possible time.

With the end of World War II, the Ghanaian ex-service men who had fought on the side of the British returned home to conditions they felt were not right. During protests over their pensions in 1948, three ex-servicemen, Private Odartey Lamptey, Corporal Attipoe and Sergeant Cornelius Frederick Adjetey were shot dead by the colonial authorities resulting in widespread rioting. The following year, Nkrumah broke away from the UGCC to form the CPP which he led to independence in 1957. There have been various changes in government since independence resulting in various changes in the administration of the creative arts in Ghana.

History of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts

With independence, Nkrumah took a keen interest in cultural matters and promoting what he called the New African. For him, culture and the creative arts represented an avenue for the development of the country in terms of its people and image. He clearly demonstrated this by appearing in a smock at the declaration of independence at the Old Polo grounds in Accra, the site of his mausoleum today. On his foreign trips, Nkrumah would take along musicians and other performers to showcase the arts of Ghana. As an indication of his intent, he got Prof Emeritus J.H Kwabena Nketia to draft a National Cultural Policy for the nation. This formed the basis of cultural administration in Ghana with some modifications here and there till 1983, when in response to the needs of the times, the Secretary of Culture and Tourism in the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) government Asiedu Yirekyi supervised the updating of the National Cultural Policy.

In 1990, the PNDC established the National Commission on Culture (NCC) with the promulgation of PNDC Law 238 to manage the Cultural life of Ghana as a nation. The Commission was tasked with the promotion of an integrated National Culture, supervision of programs to preserve, promote and present our traditions and values among others. To achieve this objective Dr. Mohammed Ben Abdallah, assisted by Dr. (Mrs.) Esi Sutherland-Addy and Walter Blege in reviewed the National Culture Policy. This policy document with some occasional reviews by the N.C.C was the basis for cultural administration till President Kuffour tasked the Commission in 2001 to present an updated National Culture Policy under the leadership of Prof Hagan. The new National Cultural Policy is currently the source document for issues of culture in Ghana today.

After a number of transformations, the supervising body for the Creative Arts in Ghana is now the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts. Meanwhile the road to this point has been very interesting indeed. The current form of the ministry began its genesis in 1993 when under the government of President Jerry Rawlings, the Ministry of Tourism was created to promote, develop and coordinate tourism related activities in the country. During his tenure, President John Agyekum Kuffour changed the name to Ministry of Tourism and Modernization of the Capital City eventually changing it again to Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations. These name changes under Kuffour were meant to reflect the widening scope of the ministry’s operations. Then under President John Evans Atta-Mills in 2008, the name was again changed to the Ministry of Tourism.

After the various forms the ministry had taken, President John Dramani Mahama rechristened it Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts under the leadership of Mrs. Elizabeth Ofosu-Agyare in 2012 with a new focus. The ministry’s mandate as captured on its website is “to provide a firm stable policy environment for effective mainstreaming of Ghanaian culture into all aspects of national life and to ensure the strong emergence of a vibrant creative economy to improve and advance the tourism industry.” The website adds that the “Ministry exists to create a conducive environment for sustainable growth and development of the sector to enable it contribute enormously to GDP through effective and efficient use of appropriate policies, plans, programs and projects. It is also to develop and sustain public–private-partnership with the Diaspora for resource mobilization and investment.” So what comprises the Creative Arts in Ghana and what is the creative economy the Ministry has to ensure that it emerges to improve and advance tourism in Ghana?

The Creative Arts

The idea of a creative economy revolving around the creative arts came to the fore in the early 2000s. The concept of a creative economy is based on people’s use of their creative imagination to add value to an idea. The concept describes economic systems where value is based on fresh imaginative qualities rather than the traditional resources of land, labor and capital. The creative economy is therefore based on individual talent and skill. The creative economy therefore encapsulates the entire creative industries and creativity throughout a whole economy.

According to UNESCO, the term cultural industries refer to industries which combine the creation, production and commercialization of creative contents which are intangible and cultural in nature. The contents are typically protected by copyright and they can take the form of a good or a service. Cultural industries generally include printing, publishing and multimedia, audiovisual, phonographic and cinematographic productions as well as crafts and design.

The UN body also notes that the term creative industries encompasses a broader range of activities which include the creative industries plus all cultural or artistic production, whether live or produced as an individual unit. The creative industries are the industries in which the product or service contains a substantial element of artistic or creative endeavor and include activities such as architecture and advertising.

Blogger Alice Loy is of the view that, whereas the notion of “cultural industries” emphasizes those industries whose inspiration derives from heritage, traditional knowledge, and the artistic elements of creativity, the notion of “creative industries” places emphasis on the individual and his or her creativity, innovation, skill and talent in the exploitation of intellectual property.

For Alice the terms cultural industries and creative industries are nearly interchangeable. I also reckon that the key denominator here is creativity and like Ghana Cultural Forum Co-convener and cultural expert Akunu Dake puts it, cultural industries are more into the heritage matters of our forts, castles, foods, languages, traditions etc. while the creative industries are more the movies, music, painting etc. Actually government thinks in terms of Cultural sites, Visual Arts, Tradition Cultural expressions, Performing Arts, Music, Publishing, Audio Visuals, New Media, Design and Creative Services what it refers to the Creative Industries.

Currently apart from music and movies and to a lesser extent heritage sites and visual arts, the other domains in the Creative Arts basket can be likened to lesser known sports and it is crucial that the Ministry pays particular attention to some of these domains to ensure that they develop to supplement whatever contributions the two main sectors of music and movies are making to the national economy and development.

The Domains of the Creative Arts

The creative industries cover ten main domains namely: visual arts, performing arts, cultural sites, traditional cultural expressions, publishing, new media, design, creative services, music and audio visuals. For the purposes of simplification, this book will adopt a grouping of the domains in the Creative Arts used by auditing firm K.P.M.G in the Comprehensive Survey of the Music Sector commissioned by the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA) in 2013. The firm groups the Creative Arts in four distinct areas. These are Heritage which is comprised of Cultural Sites and Traditional Cultural Expressions; Arts which is made up of Visual Arts and Performing Arts including music, Media which is Audio Visuals and Publishing as well as Functional Creation which is New Media, Design and Creative Services.

Heritage

Cultural Sites – Museums, Libraries, Archaeological sites, Natural attractions

Ghana abounds in numerous heritage sites across the country. Every single region in the country has its fair share of eco-tourism, forts and local attractions. In the Greater Accra region, you can find the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum where the Old Polo Grounds used to be, the site for the historic declaration of Independence on March 6, 1957. Other attractions in Accra include the Christianborg Castle which was the seat of government for years from the Acheampong regime to the government of Atta Mills until President Mahama moved the seat of government back to the Flagstaff House which is the 10th most beautiful Presidential Palace in the world. Other attractions include the Shai Hills game reserve, the forts in Prampram, the Ramsar site in Ada where domestic and international tourism thrives with boat rides on the. All across the country, heritage sites like the Salaga slave market and the Yendi slave route, the Mole Game reserve in Tamale and the Gambaga scarp and the slave walls. The Buabeng Fiema monkey sanctuary in in the Brong Ahafo region is another major attraction. In Cape Coast and Elimina in the Central region are castles and forts along with the Kakum park. Other fascinating attractions include the Nzulezu Stilt Settlement, a village on water in the Western region and the Afadjato mountains and Wli falls in the Volta region. The Ashanti region has the Manhyia palace with the Golden Stool and the sword of Okomfo Anokye in the Okomfo Anokye Teaching Hospital.  The Paga crocodile park in the Upper West and the Gbele Resource Reserve in the Upper West region add to the bouquet of offerings in the heritage domain.

There is also a fair amount of museums across the country under the supervision of the Museums and Monuments Board with the National Museum in Accra as the oldest and largest established in 1957 on the eve of independence. The museum houses archaeological findings from the Stone Age to the recent history, indigenous Ghanaian musical instruments, traditional textiles, chiefs’ paraphernalia, sculpture and paintings in addition to art from around Africa.  Other museums in the country include the Armed Forces Museum in Kumasi, Manhyia Palace Museum in Kumasi, the Cape Coast and Elimina castle museums, the Gramophone Records Museum and Research Centre in Cape Coast and the Ussher Fort Museum in Accra. Other museums are the Ghana Herbarium and the Museum of Archaelogy in the University of Ghana, Legon and the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum in Accra.

Traditional Cultural Expressions – Festivals, Arts & crafts

This is one area where Ghana has abundance. Across the entire length and breadth of the nation, festivals, arts and crafts abound. Each region of the nation and every tribe have its festival and distinct culture.  The thing with the arts, crafts and festivals of Ghana is that they usually represent or mean something. So the various carvings, totems and festivals all carry meanings. Festivals usually denote a season of planting, harvesting or marking an anniversary. The festivals in Ghana are memorable displays of culture, color, pomp and pageantry. In the Volta region they have the Hogbetso for the Anlos and Yam festivals in Ho; in the Greater Accra region there is Homowo for the Gas and Asafotufiam for the Dangbe; in the Eastern region Nmayem for the Krobos, Ohum for the Akyim and Odwira for the Akwapim; we have Kundum in the Western region for the Nzemas; Apoo for the people of Techiman in the Brong Ahafo region while in the Central region we have Aboakyire for the Efutu, Bakatue for the Fantes in Elimina and Fetu Afahye for those in Cape Coast. Further inland, there is the Adaekese in the Ashanti region, Damba for the people of Tamale in the Northern region and Bugum Chugu a fire festival for the Dagomba.

Some of the arts and crafts include the adinkra and kente textile industries which employs thousands of people in terms of creating the fabric and selling it both locally and globally. Traditional dresses like the fugu and batakari are also a booming industry, popularized by the likes of Osagyefo Dr Nkrumah and his compatriots in their famous independence declaration on March 6, 1957 and President Rawlings who made a fetish of wearing them in various combinations on the international stage. Beads making is another thriving area where apart from the use of the traditional beads made from recycled glass, shells and other material, gold nuggets are also added to the beads for added value. Brass work, ceramics and wood carving are some of the other crafts that abound in Ghana with masks made of brass, wood or a combination of both and carved stools. The National Centre for Culture N.C.C has done a good job of providing a market for the arts and crafts made by the hundreds of artisans nationwide. All over the country, traditional arts and crafts abound and are evolving and by the day. Our craftsmen are constantly churning out creative pieces which are generating huge sales both locally and internationally.

Performing Arts – live music, theatre, puppetry, dance

The formerly vibrant live band scene took a dip during the eighties and only began seeing resurgence with the return to democracy in the early nineties. These days there are bars, clubs and pubs where live music can be heard regularly. Live music in Ghana has been a big deal even in the days before independence and Highlife Historian Professor John Collins has written extensively about the history of live music in Ghana. Before and after independence, dance bands and highlife groups were in abundance. This was the era of the Comets, Moongazers, Uhuru Dance Band, E.T Mensah and the Tempos Band and the Ramblers International band.  This era spawned Kofi Ghanaba arguably the greatest Ghanaian musician ever who took African drumming to the United States of America playing with some of the biggest names in the Jazz world. Kofi Ghanaba was at home with the likes of Duke Ellington, Dizzie Gillepsie and John Coltrane. The greatest Ghanaian group ever Osibisa was also a product of this era with the likes of Teddy Osei, his brother Mac Tontoh and Sol Amarfio all played in a group like The Comets  before proceeding to illustrious careers with Osibisa, a group Teddy formed in London along with his lifetime friend Sol Amarfio. The dance bands played mainly western music and the highlife groups played highlife music and there were also groups that played everything. Some groups also added drama and were known as concert parties. They travelled all over the country with their troupes and entertained their patrons. A typical concert band would have pop singers who would sing the foreign tunes and then the highlife singer would come on and finally the drama which would be a moral story would be brought on. One of the biggest concert parties was Opia and the Jaguar Jokers. These days, bands like Kwame Yeboah’s Ohia Be Yeya, Patchbay, Big Hills, Shabo and King Shabo bands among others are keeping the live music scene bubbling with venues like +233, Piano Bar and Roots and Soul are popular venues where live music is a regular feature.

For some time now it appeared as if the theatre was dead in Ghana. The days when the David Dontohs, Dzifa Gomashies, Edinam Atatsis, Abi Adatsis, Kofi Attohs and the Abigromas, Kosi Kosis, Ghana Talent Company and Nkrabeah Effah Dartey’s posse. Theatre was a major source of entertainment in the past and some pundits have said that the decline in theatre in Ghana can be traced to the increased availability of televisions the rise of video technology and the increasing sophistication of people when they could ten sit in the comfort of their homes and watch virtually the same stars they would see in a theatre. These days theatre has bounced back in grand style with Uncle Ebo Whyte spearheading the vanguard with an avalanche of great productions like…………………. Thank God the likes of Latif Abubakar ………………. are bringing up the rearguard to ensure that this resurgence of theatre does not fizzle out anytime soon by consistently staging theatre productions.

Dance has also seen some strong activity fueled by the work of folks like Prof Esi Sutherland-Addy and Prof Nii Yartey of blessed memory with the Abigroma Dance Ensemble, National Dance Ensemble, Noyam etc. Music in general has however had a very interesting time and this will be discussed subsequently in the appropriate sections of the book.

Visual Arts – Painting, Sculpture, Photograph

The visual arts domain of the Creative Arts has seen a lot of activity. Currently, the Kuenyehia Prize for Contemporary Ghanaian Art established in 2014 seeks to identify, reward and help develop Ghana’s most outstanding artists between the ages of 25 and 40. The winner receives prize money of GHC 25,000.00 and along with the first and second runners up, they also get business training. There are other awards available for artists. Prof Ablade Glover has been described as the Father of Contemporary Arts in Ghana. He was a lecturer for thirty-two years of which twenty-nine were as a professor of arts at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) where he was the Head of Department of Artistic Education and President of the Art Faculty. Ablade Glover has participated in numerous local and international exhibitions with his work adorning the O’Hare Airport in Chicago, UNESCO in Paris, the World Bank office in Washington and museums all over Africa.  Others like Kofi Setordji, Ben Agbee, Larry Otoo, Kofi Agorsor, Kofi Asante, Kwame Amoah and Wiz Kudalor have also imprinted their work on the social fabric of the nation with their work adorning various public buildings in the country. A new crop of artists are also appearing on the scene, taking the art scene to unprecedented levels with exciting paintings and exhibitions of their work. Adwoa Amoah and a crop of young artists like ……………………. are carry forth the torch. Venues like  Ablade Glover’s Artistes Alliance with its alluring location on the La beach, Alliance Francais in Accra, Nubuke Foundation and Wall Gecko are all hubs for the display of contemporary Ghanaian art. Novotel also hosts numerous art exhibitions affording the abundance of artistic talent available a good opening to showcase their work.

Photography in Ghana has been a booming business with itinerant photographers complementing the work of photo studios like the famous Modern Photos Studios near the Kwame Nkrumah Circle on the legendary Tip Toe lane which at one point in time during the late sixties to early eighties was the Bourbon Street of Ghana with the famous Tip Toe Night Club located on the lane. 

Media

Film, Television, Radio

The media in Ghana is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy. The Ghanaian movie industry despite its inherent problems is a booming business. The Kumawood, Zangowood and Ghallywood explosions are examples of the growth in the business. According to conservative estimates by the Audio Visual Rights Organization (ARSOG) over one hundred movies are released across the country. Film makers like Socrates Safo estimate the movie industry at over GHC 1bn per annum.

The industry in Ghana is dominated by a number of movie houses and individuals. Apart from the local productions, Ghanaians are collaborating with international organizations to produce award winning movies. The latest example is ‘The Beasts of No Nation’ featuring award winning child prodigy Abraham Attah.

The Television business is a hugely evolving. Since the days of the black and white television era to the digital television stations today, the sector continues to grow. There are a number of media organizations dominating the scene. The Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) continues to remain relevant despite the onslaught of United Television from the stables of Despite Group Ltd, Multi TV from Multimedia Group Ltd., TV 3 from the , e TV from Global Media Alliances (GMA) and Viasat 1 from………

Since the liberalization of the airwaves in 1994, radio is one sector that has witnessed tremendous growth. It employs a huge number of Ghanaians and generates huge revenues. The sector has continued to produce its fair share of celebrities who are now establishing a tradition of graduation into politics with the likes of Kojo Oppong Nkrumah former Host of the Super Morning Show on Joy FM, Ras Mubarak of Uniq FM and Dzokoto of Hello FM and TV 3 setting the pace.

Publishing and Printed Media – Books, Press

The separation of the governing bodies for the collection management of the intellectual property of right owners in the creative arts has led to the formation of Copy Ghana which is tasked with the collection and management of the royalties and rights of authors in Ghana. Its expected that this will lead to a surge in the book publishing business. Currently there are a few big publishing houses in the business with some independent publishers. As said earlier Copy Ghana’s presence is expected to ginger more activity here. The Ghana Association of Writers is also fostering the development of writing and such activity will in no doubt immensely contribute to this area of the creative arts that has been a constant feature of our national life even in the pre-independence era. The history of writing in Ghana is replete with literary giants like Efua Sutherland, Ayi Kwei Armah, Kofi Awoonor, Cameron Duodu and Ama Ata Aidoo among others.

The press is another vibrant area of the creative arts in Ghana with over one hundred daily publications across the country. From the dailies to the weeklies, there are specialist newspapers catering to particular sections of the population – sports papers, gossip papers, showbiz papers, political papers and the list goes on.

The Domains of the Creative Arts – Functional Creation

New Media – Software, video games

Software creation and video games is one of the secrets of the creative arts in Ghana. There is a growing army of software creators from the award winning firm of to start ups that are taking Ghana global, winning attention in faraway Silicon Valley.

The various app contests by MTN and other bodies are fostering the development of this domain of the creative arts.

Design –Interior, Graphic, Fashion

Interior design is a huge area of the creative arts. From weddings to corporate events and concerts, interior designers are doing a great job and growing the sector. With the availability of computers, graphic designing is also an area that is seeing development. These days, flyers are designed for nearly any event or activity and the presence of graphic designers in nearly any sphere of economic activity is inimitable.

The fashion industry is taking on a shape and size that is massive. Ghanaians are designing for the high and mighty. Michelle Obama has worn designs by a Ghanaian and the list of celebrities who have adorned Ghanaian designs is tall. From pre-independence days, the fashion industry has been a backbone of the national life with dress makers sewing kaba and slits, jumpers and men’s clothes to the fashionistas of today.

Creative Services

Creative Arts Scheme

Key Issues

Azonto ownership

An intern at MUSIGA office Dahmie, told me that over the weekend, he had seen an advert on CNN which is claiming that Azonto originated in Naija. Much as we are all African brothers, this one di3 kai, walahi we should stake our claim. With Fuse ODG acting as the global ambassador of the dance form, Brand Ghana and the Ministry should call a forum of key players in the creative industries and come up with a plan for marketing Azonto and leveraging the benefits that can accrue from it.

Brazil has samba and they’ve milked it and continue to milk it. Yes, we have cultural dances already but truth be told, how many of our youth know the dance steps of their tribes whereas Azonto is danced from Aflao to Nyankpanduri through Axim to Bunkpungu Yoyo so let’s get our act together and see how we can benefit as a nation from it. Did I hear someone say it’s a fad?

Already some folks are talking about a national Azonto festival. How can we make this into a whole carnival? Joy FM out of nowhere has established Schools Reunion as an annual event folks look forward to, rivaling the festivals of certain traditional areas in terms of participation and impact both economically and socially.

There’s been talk of a carnival by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts. I propose strongly that such an event should climax in a national Azonto championship and I daresay that such an event will become an institutionalized festival that can sit comfortably on the international calendar of festivals like the Nottinghill Carnival, the Trinadad Carnival or the famous Brazilian carnival.

My caution is that it shouldn’t go the way of the Panafests, NAFACs etc which are now so removed from the mass of our people that its impact is not felt the way it should be and they seem more like festivals for a niche rather than the mass festivals I am sure the pioneers actually dreamt these festivals to be.

So Maa Lizzy and all key players in the Creative Industries, let’s get our groove on and ensure that our sector contributes its quota to the national cake.   

The case for officially for supporting a select number of artistes to spearhead our global assault has been proven by the likes of Fuse O.D.G who individually took Azonto around the world holding memorable Azonto dance sessions at places like the Eiffel Tower in Paris and clocking millions of You Tube views.      

Source: Ahuma Bosco Ocansey

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Emmanuel Ghansah, Ghana Music

Singer, Songwriter, scriptwriter, blogger, lover of the creative arts, brands and communications expert.

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