Felicia Abban is widely viewed as Ghana’s first female professional photographer. At the age of 14, she became the first and only female apprentice in the photography studio of her father, Joseph Emmanuel Ansah, where she trained for four years. After marrying designer Robert Abban, in 1953, she moved to Accra, where she set up her own photography studio in the Jamestown neighborhood. Following Ghana’s independence in 1956, Abban became the personal photographer of Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, taking pictures of important political events. In addition, she continued to run her studio, documenting Accra’s many individuals and groups. From the 1950s to 1970s Abban regularly produced self-portraits before attending dinner parties and political events, which she used as a calling card for her photography studio. She became something of a celebrity, appearing on television, radio and in many newspaper articles for her groundbreaking work, and managed to train a whole generation of female photographers, taking them on as apprentices in her studio. In 2017, Abban’s work was exhibited for the first time in Accra: Portraits of a City at ANO Institute of Arts & Knowledge, Accra. It was announced on that occasion that Abban’s photography studio will be turned into the Felicia Abban Museum.
John Akomfrah, CBE, is an artist and filmmaker, whose works are characterized by their investigations into memory, post-colonialism, temporality, and aesthetics and often explores the experiences of migrant diasporas globally. Akomfrah was a founding member of the influential Black Audio Film Collective, which he started in London in 1982 with the artists David Lawson and Lina Gopaul, who he still collaborates with today. Their first film, Handsworth Songs (1986) explored the events surrounding the 1985 riots in Birmingham and London through a charged combination of archive footage, still photos and newsreel. The film won several international prizes and established a multi-layered visual style that has become a recognizable motif of Akomfrah’s practice. In 2017, Akomfrah presented Purple, his largest installation to date. The six-channel video installation addresses climate change, human communities and the wilderness. That same year, Akomfrah also debuted Precarity, which follows the life of forgotten New Orleans jazz singer Buddy Bolden through archival imagery and newly-shot footage.
Akomfrah has had numerous solo exhibitions at institutions including the New Museum, New York (2018); SFMOMA, San Francisco (2018); Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid (2018); Tate Britain, London (2013-14); and a week-long series of screenings at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2011). His work has also been presented at the Venice, Sharjah, Liverpool, and Taipei biennials, as well as at film festivals worldwide, including Sundance Film Festival (2011 and 2013) and Toronto International Film Festival (2012).
A pioneering sculptor, El Anatsui is a leading contemporary African artist whose work has influenced a generation of artists. After training in sculpture at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Accra, he lectured at Specialist Training College, Winneba, Ghana. In 1975, he moved to Nigeria and taught sculpture and basic design at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka for four decades. A member of the Aka Circle of Exhibiting Artists and leading figure of the Nsukka School, Anatsui has participated in major international residences and workshops. His work has been presented at the Venice, Havana, Johannesburg, Liverpool, Gwangju, Dakar, Sydney, and Marrakech biennials, and at the Osaka and Paris triennials. He was awarded the Praemium Imperiale (2017), Doctor of Fine Arts (honoris causa) by Harvard University and Doctor of Letters by University of Cape Town (2016), and the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale (2015). He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2014) and made an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Art (2013).
Anatsui’s work is in many major public collections, including the Asele Institute (Nimo, Nigeria), The British Museum (London), The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art (Washington DC), Centre Pompidou (Paris), De Young Museum (San Francisco), Museum Kunst Palast (Dusseldorf), Setagaya Museum (Tokyo), National Gallery of Modern Art (Lagos), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Museum of Modern Art (New York), Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto), Tate Modern (London), among others.
One of the most exciting artists to emerge from Ghana in recent years, Ibrahim Mahama uses the transformation of materials to explore themes of commodity, migration, globalization and economic exchange. After receiving an MFA in Painting from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in 2013, Mahama quickly achieved international acclaim for his large-scale installations. Often made in collaboration with others, these installations use materials salvaged from urban environments, such as remnants of wood, or jute sacks that are stitched together and draped over architectural structures. Mahama’s interest in material, process, and audience first led him to focus on jute sacks that are synonymous with the trade markets of Ghana where he lives and works. Fabricated in South East Asia, the sacks are imported by the Ghana Cocoa Boards to transport cocoa beans and eventually end up as multi-functional objects, used for the transportation of food, charcoal and other commodities.
Mahama’s work has been presented in numerous international exhibitions, including Documenta 14, Athens and Kassel (2017); An Age of Our Own Making, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen and Holbæk (2016); Fracture, Tel Aviv Art Museum, Israel (2016); All the World’s Futures, 56th Venice Biennale, Venice (2015); Artist’s Rooms, K21, Dusseldorf (2015); and Material Effects, The Broad Art Museum, Michigan (2015).
Selasi Awusi Sosu
Selasi Awusi Sosu discovered the medium of glass while studying sculpture at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, from 1997 to 2005. Having previously studied textiles at Achimota School, Accra, Sosu started searching for a new medium of expression during the final years of her studies. More recently, she began to investigate the medium of glass through the lenses of photography, yet her photographic installations still reveal her background in sculpture.
Sosu’s solo exhibitions include Transience at the St. Teresa's Catholic Church, Amisano, Cape Coast (2016) and Transparencies at the University of Education, Winneba (2015). She has participated in several group shows, including Tracing Obsolescence, Apexart, New York (2018); Orderly Disorderly, Museum of Science & Technology, Accra (2017); and Memory and Amnesia: In the Presence of Absent Futures, King Prempeh II Library, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi (2017). Furthermore, Sosu was a special guest artist at The Gown Must Go to Town… Of Art and Philosophical Consciencism, Museum of Science & Technology, Accra (2015), as well as a member of the production team of If You Love Me… at Loco Shed, Kumasi Railway, Kumasi (2016). In 2015, she participated in the durational performance, The Return of the Slaves, by Elikem Vabene Fiatsi and the Ofkob Artists’ Residency. Sosu currently teaches in the Department of Art Education, University of Education, Winneba.
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye attended Falmouth College of Arts and the Royal Academy Schools. Yiadom-Boakye has had several solo museum shows, most recently at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2017); Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland (2016); Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany (2015); and Serpentine Gallery, London (2015). She was included in the 57th edition of the Carnegie International (2018) at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, winning the Carnegie Prize. Other recent group exhibitions include The British Art Show 8, traveling to four venues between 2015 and 2017; Sharjah Biennial 12: The past, the present, and the possible (2015); The Encyclopedic Palace, 55th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia (2013); The Ungovernables: 2012 New Museum Triennial, New Museum, New York (2012); and the 11th Lyon Biennial of Contemporary Art, Lyon, France (2012).
Her work is included in many institutional collections, including the Tate Collection, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Miami Art Museum, Florida, the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, the Arts Council Collection, London, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Nasher Museum of Art, North Carolina, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. Yiadom-Boakye was the 2012 recipient of the Pinchuk Foundation Future Generation Prize, which was accompanied by a solo exhibition of her work. She was short-listed for the 2013 Turner Prize and in 2016 she was awarded the South Bank Sky Arts Award.