Tag: Ghana Must Go


Pop-Art Kingmaker: Introducing Dennis Owusu-Ansah

Over the past few years we’ve seen an explosion of African print and culture in the mainstream. From the epidemic of ‘Angelina’ dashikis to the notorious need-to-see-to-believe ‘Ghana-Must-Go’ bags going for thousands of pounds and being billed as ‘high fashion’, you don’t need to go far nowadays to catch an essence of Africa. Even so, 2despite seeing a hint of kente here and some semblance of an adinkra sign there, it was easy to find aspects of African culture appropriated and you didn’t see much evidence of those who are considered royalty in western black culture catch onto the African trend.

 

So when a portrait painting of Nicki Minaj dressed completely in beautiful traditional kente and rechristened ‘Nicki Maame Akua Amponsah’ began to filter across our timelines and bleed down our social media profiles, many sat up and took notice. The painting went viral, and more pieces of art depicting the biggest and best stars of our age adorned in African garments were gradually unearthed. On searching for the artist responsible, all roads led to the New York Bronx.

 

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Dennis Owusu Ansah

For there resides Dennis Owusu-Ansah – a 26 year old New Yorker visual artist of Ghanaian descent who is a producer of pop art highlighting the beauty of African culture using popular personalities as his muses. His work has seen a burst in popularity and intrigue. However, superimposed upon his work’s viral nature is a serious motivation to drive aside the misconceptions many have regarding Africa.

In a recent interview with CNN, he notes how an unfortunate incidence of ignorance triggered him to get to work with his paints and use his artistry to challenge perceptions of Africans. “After witnessing my friend get teased by a group of men for wearing a kente cloth on our way to church, I figured something must be done to change the perspective of people who are not familiar with the African culture,” he told CNN. “They had no idea what my friend was wearing. One of the guys shouted ‘that man has a blanket wrapped around his body like it’s winter time.’ I saw this incident as an opportunity to educate people about who we are, and what we stand for through my art.

His ideas fall in line with the much acclaimed T.I.N.A. (This Is New Africa) adage advocated by Ghanaian musician Fuse ODG, who tirelessly pushes the agenda that Africa needs to be depicted in a better, more glorious light than Western society tends to throw upon it. “Africa isn’t only about what the media portrays on television, [but is] a continent rich in history, diversity and traditions” Dennis opines.

 

And what better canvas upon which to depict that richness in culture than the biggest and 1most-celebrated stars of young black culture today. The works of Dennis Owusu-Ansah burst with bright colour, bold statements on a background of elegance and with a foreground of opulence. How can someone fail to be captivated by the sight of Meagan Good wearing an extravagant gele, or rap behemoth Rick Ross adorned in the vestments of a Nigerian chief? How can you not be enamoured with the sight of Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs & Jay-Z, usually spotted in the cleanest of suits and urbanwear, dressed in the finest Nigerian and Ghanaian apparel – depicted as West African royalty.

He even remixes the names of his subjects when he posts their portraits, fully integrating them into the fabric of African culture – so we have had the pleasure of being introduced to characters such as ‘Sean Puffy Nana Antwi Combs’, ‘Meagan Omotola Good’, ‘Chief Shawn Ugonna Jay Z Carter’ & ‘Chris Kofi Sarpong Brown.’

 

Just like Peniel Enchill in January 2015, Dennis Owusu-Ansah is a Ghanaian artist who is taking the world and social media by storm at the turn of a year. “I’ve been getting positive comments from people all over the world,” he told Okayafrica in a recent interview. “It’s good to hear people you’ve never met tell you that your art puts a smile on their faces. Comments like that motivate me to work harder every day.”

5The artistry of Dennis Owusu-Ansah has given those who may not be too familiar with African culture a bridge over which they can cross in order to appreciate the power and the nobility which resides within. How better to showcase the best of African culture by using some of the most recognisable stars around – using those with the biggest social media followings and the biggest fan nations to spark a strong desire to learn more about authentic and genuine African culture. The movement of African awareness now has another member added to its ranks, as Dennis continues on his mission to challenge misconceptions by bringing Africa to the world at large and making Africa accessible through contemporary pop art.

Follow Dennis Owusu-Ansah on his Instagram page @denny_ow for updates and visit his website densahcollection.com to check out his artwork and fashion collection.
By Dr Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

My Culture is not Couture: Angelina by Vlisco

After it was tailored and worn by an African-American teenager to her prom, and by many African-American celebrities, the Dashiki fabric, known in Ghana as “Angelina”, has suddenly become popular in the mainstream Western culture; so popular that everywhere one goes, every store one shops, there are attempts to recreate the design of this well known African textile.
Recently the Angelina fabric caught the attention of many people of African and Non-African descent, after the fiasco of ELLE Canada magazine, which defines the fabric as the “[…] newest It-item of note”; and if anyone has a basic understanding of this material, there would be questions about which part of the Dashiki is new, the design or the cut.

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Since the fiasco, ELLE Canada has taken the tweet down as an acknowledgement of its mistake; however the problem still remains. See, this incident occurred when Bantu knots were “discovered” by Marc Jacobs, according to a clearly uninformed fashion blogger, and when Louis Vuitton capitalised on the Ghana must go bags during its fashion shows.
Apart from the misconception that the Agelina fabric is a Western African invention, the problem with this incident fuses into the idea of cultural appreciation becoming cultural appropriation, with total lack of credit to whom credit is due, i.e. Black people.

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http://v-inspired.vlisco.com/ambassadors-of-style/

In order to recognise the danger in the perpetuation of this narrative of cultural appropriation, it is important for People of Colour to educate themselves, and understand the structures of social power that enables stories like the above. This education needs to start at home, so we can truly grasp the fact that our culture and system of traditions are not “new”, “trendy”, “edgy” or product of Western ideologies, destined to be passè when the “First World” is done consuming it.

 

The hi(story) of the Angelina fabric is richer and stronger than a “trend”, and knowing it is the master key to challenge those notions of cultural appropriation. It was created by a Vlisco’s textile designer around 1960s, based on the pattern of the 19th century Ethiopian noble women’s tunic, which was inspired the design of Chinese silks. The fabric is very popular in East Africa, but its demand was also established in West Africa.
To know and acknowledge the history behind the textile is to truly understand how rooted and whole, and independent our heritage is; it is to nurture a sense of pride when it is appreciated, and call out those who appropriate it.

By Benjamina E. Dadzie

Introducing you to…

GHRBS: Taiye Selasi

 

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She has been widely tipped as the most exciting literary voice to have appeared in years and her debut novel “Ghana must Go” is set to take the literary world by storm!  Taiye Selasi the writer and photographer of Nigerian and Ghanaian origin raised in London and educated in the United States has produced a novel which spans the globe from Accra, Ghana, to London to New York. It’s the story of a successful African immigrant family living in Boston. They seem to be fulfilling the American dream until the father, a surgeon, inexplicably leaves. This sets into motion an unraveling family that’s repaired only by a reunion following their father’s untimely death. The narrative of the story is steeped in emotion and all kinds of love and betrayal and exposes revelations that span generations and cross national boundaries.

Taiye Selasi was born in London, and raised in Brookline, Massachusetts – she is the elder of twin daughters in a family of academics. Selasi’s mother, a pediatrician in Ghana, is widely known across Africa for her advocacy of children’s rights.Her father, a surgeon and public intellectual, has published numerous volumes of poetry, one included in the literature curriculum of Ghana. Selasi graduated with a BA in American Studies from YaleUniversity and holds an MPhil in International Relations from NuffieldCollege, Oxford. Taiye means first twin in her mother’s native Yoruba. Selasi means “God has heard” in her father’s native Ewe.

In 2005 LiP Magazine published “Bye-Bye, Babar (Or: What is an Afropolitan?)”Selasi’s seminal text on “Afropolitans” (which combines the words African and cosmopolitan to describe a contemporary generation of Africans) a phrase which has been championed ever since the text’s release.   A year later Selasi wrote a short story “The Sex Lives of African Girls”. The story, which was published by Granta magazine in 2011, appears in Best American Short Stories 2012.Earlier In 2010 Ann Godoff at Penguin Press bought Selasi’s unfinished novel. Ghana Must Go is set to be is published in 15 countries this year. In 2012 Selasi launched the multimedia project “2154”, setting out to photograph and film young people in all 54 African countries which is also set to be completed this year in a film titled “twentysomethings”

Taiye Selasi has cemented herself as an all round creative talent. Thus now with her entry into the world of novel writing, she may just become one of the world’s great authors. “Ghana must Go” is a must read for any “Afropolitan” or simply anyone with an eye for a commanding story.

To find out more about Ms Selasi you can visit her website – http://www.taiyeselasi.com/

Taiye  Selasi Me Firi Ghana salutes you!