By Nii B. Andrews.
At a major junction in Kumasi, just near the Suame roundabout, Kwame Akoto aka ALMIGHTY has been plying his trade as a prolific and major Ghanaian artist for over four decades.
Akoto has been included in at least thirty CAA exhibitions outside Ghana since 1995; Italy, Poland, Netherlands, France, Denmark, Portugal, and the United States.
He runs an open air studio/workshop/training center (he personally calls it his “shop”) which he founded in 1972 after completing a six year apprenticeship with the master painters and sign writers of Addai and Kobia Arts in the Mbrom area of Kumasi.
Initially, the focus of his “shop” was on commercial art; barber and hair salon signs, signage on kiosks and other small businesses, slogans and names on taxis, lorries, delivery vans, and trucks.
Akoto has also created cloth banners for evangelical events, silk-screened memorial T-shirts for funerals and portraits on tin for grave monuments.
The interconnected world of the commercial street and the academy in the energetic city of Kumasi provides new perspectives for a local modernity that encompasses photography, advertising, graphic design, European art history and Ghanaian history and culture; this was termed Kumasi Realism by the late Ghanaian scholar, Atta Kwami.
Another term – “creativity art”, has been coined and applied by Akoto himself to his pieces that are not intended for advertising and are primarily for an international clientele and savvy local collectors.
He signs his own and indeed all the studio’s paintings with the block printed signature “Almighty God Art Works.”
As documented by the art historian Doran Ross, the “creativity art” of Akoto, “covers an astonishing array of subjects, ranging from Christian themes, celebrity portraits, and homages to Ghana, to visual/textual essays on world problems, death and mourning, and visions of demons, the devil, and hell.
Running across these categories and many more is an enormous series of self-portraits that are refl ections on himself and the human condition at large…”
Akoto has confessed many times and documented in many paintings that the two most important events and joint turning points in his life were his conversion to Christianity on December 13, 1991, and his marriage to Faustina in 1993.
His paintings encompass a wide array of subjects and styles which are almost always linked by terse textual commentary within the work.
The written word is at least as important as the painted image in his work.
He has stated, “You need to read to understand my art.”
He maintains a firm belief that his creations “speak”. And who can dispute that from the vividly hued colors, emphatic application of paint and striking compositions?
Since January 16 this year, the Fowler Museum at UCLA has been hosting an 80 painting retrospective titled, “How Do You See This World?: The Art of Almighty God” – it will end on May 15 2022.
The exhibition catalog states: “The Fowler presentation opens with a sampling of works on a range of themes that are developed further in subsequent sections of the exhibition.
A series of contextual photographs feature the artist and his family, his apprentices at work, and the vibrant setting of Almighty’s outdoor studio in Kumasi’s bustling city center.
The latticed installation structures are a nod to the artist’s workshop; and the salon-style hanging of works mirrors their display for sale at Almighty God Art Works.
A short video captures Almighty painting a seated model, singing hymns, and musing aloud on his sources of inspiration.”
The exhibition was curated by the late Doran H. Ross, former director of the Fowler Museum, and completed posthumously by co-curators Erica P. Jones, curator of African arts, and Betsy D. Quick, former director of education and curatorial affairs.
Ross worked closely with Akoto for nearly thirty years and published several articles on his work.
Akoto created two “praise portraits” of his scholar friend upon Ross’s passing in 2020.
On the occasion of Ghana’s 65th anniversary, ARTcapital Ghana salutes Kwame Akoto aka Almighty, for his landmark retrospective at the renowned Fowler Museum; he is clearly one of the accomplished, yet unsung distinguished heroes of our country.