By Nii B. Andrews.
A rare new wind started blowing last week across the desecrated Sakumo Ramsar site which borders my lair at Tema.
Last year, those with the cognitive power equivalent of an AA battery, created a municipal landfill site at the southwest end of the internationally protected wetland and bird sanctuary, just across from the road which borders the beach that hosts multiple eateries.
The acrid smoke from the piles of burning garbage wafted eastward across the 3 kilometer Sakumo Lagoon Valley to Community 3, Tema.- carried by what should have been the salubrious seabreeze,
The sheer horror; it was terrible and especially dangerous during this pandemic and climate emergency.
As the mounds of refuse at the site grew bigger, so did the fires and the smoke; the latter becoming present throughout the day.
Just last week, the Deputy Minister for Lands thankfully summarily ordered the closure of this veritable abomination.
Since then, the cool and unspoiled August seabreeze has returned leaving those of us who take life seriously to ask important questions about the vale of tears called, ghana – a place where there is ample evidence that more often than not, the characteristic default position of our professional class is, NONSENSE or a pathetic connivance and or a cowardly silence in the face of wrong doing.
While I was thus gleefully engaged in enjoying the welcome relief, two new bodies of art work engaged my attention.
The first collection was recently created by a small but growing band of multidisciplinary artists in the capital of the DRC -Kinshasa.
This group of about 20 artists have fabricated elaborate and bizarre costumes from household rubbish found at dumps or on the streets.
Their costumes act as political and social commentary, highlighting the desperate need to recycle and to efficiently manage sanitation in a city overflowing with rubbish and plastic.
But the city’s residents apparently do not take these artists seriously; they consider them eccentric or under the control of malevolent forces.
“They look at us strangely,” says Kabaka one of the artists, “[I’m a] man with Rasta haircut who collects material at the rubbish dump – the inhabitants of Kinshasa call us crazy or bewitched”.
Is it not amazing that it is those who brazenly mismanage and destroy our collective resources that are given a pass on their intelligence, discipline and sanity?
A rare portrait executed by the distinguished Ghanaian artist, Larry Otoo, was the other piece of work.
Even though figurative portraits have become ubiquitous in ghanaian CAA, most of them are gratuitous and uninspired; some may even count as consumer goods for those who buy art with their ears and not their eyes.
Otoo’s portrait packs a serious, relevant and timely message.
To begin with, the head references an Akuaba doll – oval head, arched eyebrows that converge on the bridge of a nose, forming an m-shaped outline; elongated neck – but with distorted / contorted facial features.
It immediately transmits a message that all is not well.
The eyes are wide open and staring, implying apprehension and panic; an existential threat looms. This is in contrast to the usual closed or downcast eyes; the peaceful countenance of the classic Akuaba doll.
The variegated colors may refer to the multiple cultures from which this particular doll could emerge, thus emphasizing the multicultural extent of our collective angst.
Perhaps the bright red lipstick, pouting lips and garish makeup point to a contemporary elan.
Is it that this doll projects the wholly unpleasant experience of the dark, acrid smoke emerging from our mismanaged urban garbage heaps and forest fires; or is it struggling to breathe as over 4 million have done and succumbed as a result of a pestilence rooted in the wanton destruction of our natural environment?
If those who draw attention to these issues and try to make sense out of them have been bewitched then let me, shut the door and quietly enjoy the rare new wind – the restored clean seabreeze, even as I struggle to continue to lay bare the tradition of prophetic fire.