A YEAR AFTER 'FAUXREEDOM'


                          All photo credits to Naa Abiana Nelson

       4th of March this year marks exactly a year when ' Fauxreedom exhibitions' of the Nkyinkyim Installation begun. The exhibitions begun with an installation at the Kwame Nkrumah Park; Kwame Nkrumah's Mausoleum, continued at Usher Fort in James Town and finally ended with the beginning of 'In Memoriam,Portraits of the Middle Passage, In Situ' which would not have happened without the help of my brothers and sisters from the African diaspora, let by Danny Dunson.

Whilst the sculpted ancestors 'seemed at home' in the dungeons of Usher 

Fort and Cape Coast Castle, the exhibition at Nkrumah's Mausoleum was a whole different experience that left me and fulfilled but extremely drained and worn. In fact I strongly believe that a year after we are still recovering from the intensity of the experience.

 Below (in italics) is what I wrote about Fauxreedom .

  

Faux-Reedom exhibition is an intervention to Ghana’s 60th Anniversary celebration and the title ‘Faux-Reedom’ is a play on the word ‘Freedom’ with the word ‘free’ replaced by the word ‘Faux’. The latter word being a French word for false or artificial. Are we really free from the legacies of slavery and colonisation? 

The sculptures in the exhibition are a progress on my evolving art installation known as Nkyinkyim and they are meant to be the portraits of our enslaved Ghanaian/African ancestors.

Nkyinkyim seeks to use art (sculptures mostly) to document and tell the story of Ghanaian/African heritage. I am looking at including the periods between pre-historic and post-postmodern times in the timeline narrative of the installation. 

The sculptures in their current state (without bodies) are reminiscent of Nsiso or Nsodie; Akan terracotta head sculptures which were created by as an entourage for departed royals and occasionally prominent people. The nsodie sculptures are representational and may represent servants or loved ones who will accompany the dead royals to the underworld so that he/she may live a life similar to what they enjoyed in the land of the living. These sculpture were mostly created by women especially mbrewatia (old wise women) who were not only wise in the art of pot making and nsodie but also knowledgeable in the funerary rites and customs of their respective clans. Nsodie making was practised by the Akan (Ghana and Cote de Ivoire) unfortunately little is known about this sacred art form in our modern times except for the art pieces which can be found in a few shrines and also private collections and museums outside Ghana and Cote de Ivoire.

The sculptures, acting as nsodie at Kwame Nkrumah’s mausoleum emphasises Nkrumah’s royalty. The sculptures are have been arranged at the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial park in a way that they mostly face the east where the sun rises, with the statue and the tomb of Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah caught between the Nkyinkyim sculptures and the Sun. 

The exhibition as an intervention, seeks to trigger a dialogue on "If we as Africans are really free" hence the pun Faux-reedom, with "faux” being French for fake.

"Our cultural heritage is giving way to the legacies of slavery and colonisation. If we say we are independent, what and who are we independent from? What constitutes our independence?

Is our independence linked with the liberation of Africa?

If no then is our independence meaningless?

 Having read the above maybe you have your own ideas about the 

  

Having read the above statement maybe you have your own ideas about the direction the exhibition took and the intensity of the experience ... pause…before you dream any further take a critical look at the following photograph.

  

Having read the above statement maybe you have your own ideas about the direction the exhibition took and the intensity of the experience ... pause…before you dream any further take a critical look at the following photograph

Yes, you are right. That is a couple taking a white wedding photo in the middle of the cemetery/mausoleum, right amongst the ‘nsodie’ and ‘sampon (effigies of the dead) at the Burial Grounds of Nkrumah Kwame the founder of the nation.

The immediate reaction of my team (who felt it was very disrespectful) was to try and ask people to leave but I told them “No, just make sure the sculptures are not damaged”. My reason for that comment was and remains very simple… Dead relative/ancestors were never feared prior to external western philosophical and religious influence (I am always happy to hear different opinions based on facts)

The Akan and most African cultures who practiced ancestral veneration never ‘feared’

their ancestors. They loved them and constantly sort their company and they still do. They actually left food for the nsodie and sort their guidance. So I believe touching the sculptures are never disrespectful, however, your intentions and ideas may be disrespectful. I have seen Nkrumah’s tomb venerated and disrespected the same way especially during and after 6th March (Ghana’s Independence Day) 

Not everyone visiting the Kwame Nkrumah Park, see it as a mausoleum/cemetery.  For most of them it is just a beautiful park. We took many photos of people doing wedding photo shoots, selfies and personal videos. So yes it was extremely intense!

At the Kwame Nkrumah Park, I saw my sculptures become a direct switch to people’s emotions; happiness, sadness, anger, regret, awe, indifference, hope, stupor, hate. Yes, it was an emotional buffet from friends and strangers alike.

There and then I decided to end the “tour”. I was not sure I could continue with the roller coaster which was not only leaving me an emotional wreck (watch out for my next post on immersion) but also ensuring I will be broke enough to halt this project and all related research. Alas, another sibling from the diaspora, was lassoed by the energy of ancestors to join in a quest that has become an amalgam of pain, happiness, and healing.

So why did I keep at it? Well I am happy that I have been given the opportunity to help in what is to become a healing process for all Africans in the diaspora.

At the Kwame Nkrumah Park I met and reached more people than I ever did in my almost 6 years of trying to reach, educate and empower youth in the diaspora.

I got to talk to schools, churches, children, Muslims, Christians, atheists, Hindus and even future ancestors. I learnt a lot about how to proceed with the next phase of Ancestor Project and the Nkyinkyim Installation. 

I know there will be more emotional roller coasters to overcome, but one fact remains. The Nkyinkyim Installation involves a narrative that is not mine alone to tell.

If you are reading this, I am inviting you to the next phase of our journey. Watch out for our gathering in Ada 2019/2020. 

Never forget who you are. Be a harbinger for positive change.

                                                                                       Kwame Akoto-Bamfo