ABONSAM STAND: Bright Ackwerh (born 1989) mixed media installation; dimensions variable, 2017. Provenance, property of the artist on display at National Museum of Science and Technology in the exhibition, “Orderly, Disorderly”.
A good cartoonist lives by the pen, plays hard and has no sacred cows- perhaps with the exception of irreverence.
If she is true to her art, she will take a muscular and robust view of freedom of expression and freedom of conscience and be prepared to live or die with the consequences.
These principles do not come cheap.
Sycophants need not apply to be satirists for the art is not a sympathetic one.
Satire continues to exist in enlightened or tolerant societies because there are always public figures who consider themselves as tin gods- misguided and impious enough not to respond to appropriate civil censure.
Satire has always been part and parcel of traditional African societies and culture. Do not let the revisionists tell you otherwise -and they love to and are always quick to do so.
The individuals depicted in the artwork should be readily identifiable to anyone with a modicum of interest in Ghanaian and world politics.
However, there will not be (nor indeed should there be) unanimous agreement on their juxtaposition and the explicit or implicit message; c’est la vie.
But Ackwerh’s images are so trenchant that they will provoke a visceral reaction in the viewer.
Is that not what good art does?
This work is a solid broadside against some of the important causes of the myriad socio-economic problems facing Ghana and other sub-Saharan nations.
Why should bread in Accra cost 5 to 10x what it costs in North Africa?
Why should we pollute and destroy our water bodies and virgin forests including rare rosewood?
Ackwerh explores the complexities of this back breaking and soul sapping world by asking and answering a thousand questions at once.
Does ABONSAM STAND cause harm or hurt or offence?
Which if any should concern us?
And why the sudden concern?
To censure criticism or disagreement is the true ABONSAM STAND.
Or are we to concur with the following from Peter Mashela of the Sowetan Times?
“In a typical African country, people have no illusions about the unity of morality and governance. People know that those who have power have it for themselves and their friends and families”.
Now, a word of caution; those with a preconditioned perspective anchored by a monolithic simplistic nationalism ought not to rush to hasty judgment about ABONSAM STAND; the piece will prove resilient to snap judgments and appropriation.
Nii B. Andrews