By Nii B. Andrews
Much of the excitement for patrons and collectors of contemporary African art (CAA) stems from the contribution of our artists to contemporary narratives on the hot issues in society.
Of course, not everyone “gets it”; and that is OK too; such is life.
Large swathes of the public, for myriad reasons, pay scant attention if any to the work of the artists. There are no brownie points to be earned for guessing who gets the most attention -it is the barrels that make the most noise.
The dismal results of such misplaced priorities are all around us to continue to suffer from, suffer with and suffer in.
But many of our artists certainly do not pull any punches.
Let us take a careful look at “Struggling in Trotro” by Maxwell Antwi- a trained sign writer. The significant contribution of sign writers to our contemporary art corpus has been documented by Atta Kwami in his authoritative book, “Kumasi Realism”.
Maxwell Antwi, in this particular painting, eloquently captures the vicissitudes suffered by our people.
Note the cracked windows of the (reconfigured) van and barely hanging terrible front head light. We shall leave out the pick pocket since pick pockets ply the streets of every major city from Barcelona to Brisbane.
If you have ever driven down the Nungua- Teshie- La Beach Road or the infamous Spintex Road, the chaotic nature of our public transport system cannot fail to make a lasting impression.
Those major arteries are in essence giant parking lots on account of the indiscipline of the Trotro drivers.
At rush hour, things become graphically frenetic as passengers jostle, push, shoulder and elbow their way into the vehicles.
The “authorities” have to date not been able to provide an efficient public transport system and do not appear to prioritize the issue.
In most well organised and civilized societies…….well, never mind.
Maxwell Antwi’s painting provides six gargantuan buildings as a backdrop to those struggling to embark the Trotro. There is also a long snaking line of dejected people in the right upper corner.
A roll call of the labels Antwi has placed on the buildings is highly instructive.
The building labeled “Ministers House” is a mischievous pun which emphatically reinforces our hopelessly misplaced societal priorities.
And the majority of our people continue “struggling in Trotro”, and you know, not in Trotro only.
Is there anyone who needs hard evidence?
Truck loads are readily available.
As a final lunge at the monumental incompetence and lack of probity of our (literate/? educated) titled pooh bahs – which is what has led us into and perpetuates this situation- Antwi signs his name in the left lower corner as a squiggly blob…..perhaps to signal his disgust with the status quo.
“It’s on top of me” he laments – ”wo me do!”, is the phrase on the Trotro.
The painting may well contain more than one mischievous pun!
What do you think? Or would you rather label it a vicious pun?