The Artists' Alliance (AA) has been my de facto second home in Accra since I relocated here almost twenty five years ago. This imposing edifice on the La coastline, is the brainchild of the palette knife maestro, Prof Ablade Glover.

Imposing facade of the AA

It is one of the very few places in Accra that is a haven of peace and a site where one can view and quietly contemplate the tremendous creative energy of Ghanaians. Suffice it to say, that this asset has yet to be recognised, let alone harnessed by our "leaders" in order to assist in solving our serious existential problems.

How then can anyone be appointed to a high office in  the Ministry of Tourism and yet have never visited the Artists' Alliance?

Only in Ghana, I presume.

Today Sunday, the President of the Ford Foundation (FF) paid a working visit to the Artists' Alliance. The program was a very well coordinated affair with the participation of traditional rulers, artists, collectors, dealers and gallery owners.

I felt very proud to be Ghanaian; and so did my roommate.

The visit presented a unique opportunity for the AA Founder and his staff to express their profound gratitude to the Ford Foundation for its indispensable assistance in the establishment of the landmark institution.

The gratitude of the AA was displayed in the best Ghanaian tradition.

Promptly at 1 pm, the FF President arrived at the forecourt of the AA to the spirited sound of fontomfrom drums. A  La traditional priest- Wulomo,  placed a garland of sacred leaves round the neck of the august visitor.

Ga traditional music ensemble.

Then began an extensive guided tour of the three floor 10 000 sq ft gallery under the direction of Prof. Glover.

After the tour, the entourage assembled on the ground floor for a musical interlude of traditional Ga music interspersed with animated and excellent choreography.

There were then the usual speeches from the usual suspects laced with the usual niceties and platitudes; we should all have the tapes by now.

The FF President then left the AA amidst the thunderous sound of the fontomfrom drums.

I spent a whole hour listening to the drummers afterwards; glass of excellent red wine in hand- standing under the eaves of the front porch- in the shade, looking north across the La Tema Beach Road.

The awesome drum orchestra

The syncopation and timbre of the drums took me to another place. The drummers sometimes came forward spontaneously to dance; sometimes they held the drum sticks with their teeth; they nodded out the rhythm changes to each other; call and was all there.

A foreign correspondent recorded  it all- video and sound.

My roommate handed me her wine glass went down the three steps to where the drum orchestra was and got into it. This charged up the drummers and mo' better and complex rhythms flowed.

The foreign correspondent continued to record.

The roommate swayed, expressive arm movements and hip gyrations ensued; not forgetting of course neck movements.

It all reminded me of one afternoon in 1996, when she danced alone to the drums in the Dakar Médina and the roof tops filled to watch her.

Yesha Puplampu of Gallery 1957 and Damali of ARTcapital Ghana; Founder and Artistic Director of HAIRart Ghana.

As always the correctness and fluidity of her movements surprised them - both in Dakar and in La.

Of course they do not know that she is a Shama Royal- and I was not about to tell them.

Then she rejoined me on the porch face flushed and content.

Just then, the La Dzaasetse  and Akwashongtse arrived on the porch to take their leave.

They immediately proceeded to salute the drummers with well executed stately dance steps accompanied by obligatory hegemonic hand movements before entering their chauffeur driven cars.

There was a further surge in the drum rhythms and even more adroit syncopation. The beads on the arms and necks of the Royals were glistening as they caught the sun's rays.

The foreign correspondent continued to record.

"You have million dollar footage", I said to her, "this is priceless", I continued.

She smiled  and asked to know the identity of "the dancer".

Damali and Max Boadi at the AA function. Hanging in the background are some of Max’s latest work.

"That's my roommate", I said, " now let me introduce you to a phenomenal young artist- Max Boadi; tell the world about him because he is already doing great things".

"Yes, he is our son", chimed in my roommate.

Damali, Theo (Manager AA) and staff.

Nii B. Andrews


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