Art Exhibition Review – Cornfields in Accra: KNUST End-of-year Exhibition

Ghanaian writer Ama Atta Aidoo’s poem on growth, survival and thriving amidst the uncertainty of urban life is where this year’s edition of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology Final Year exhibition borrows its title: Cornfields in Accra. The group exhibition takes this thematic thread of an unlikely survival, and attempts to weave a seamless line of experience through the output of over a hundred artists, who work in a variety of different materials and mediums. Last year, the collaborative effort of blaxTARLINES KUMASI, a collective from the department of Paintings and Sculpture at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board produced the first ever kind of exhibition of contemporary art of such magnitude in Ghana, titled The Gown must go to Town.

Ibrahim Mahama’s iconic ocean of repossessed cocoa sacks draped the entirety of the three-storey museum of science and art where the show was held and transformed the obscure and underutilized building in the heart of the city surrounded by office complexes and traffic jams into a source of continuous chatter with its new visceral look. For Cornfields in Accra, however, Mahama’s iconic work seems just a sideshow as every inch of space on the walls and floors of the museum is carefully arranged with thousands of art pieces.

The exhibition begins everywhere from outside the museum’s space and ends nowhere.  It truly is an endless cornfield of photography, illustrations, paintings, sculptures, design pieces, video and sound installations and street art serving up a satisfying array of spectacles on an epic proportion. Adjo Kisser’s infantile nude cartoons, easily recognizable by their broad crescent smiles critique notions of sexuality, nudity and religion. Yaw Owusu’s wall of one pesewa coins, in varying tones and shades confer an immeasurable value on the denomination of the Ghanaian currency that has become worthless for day to day spending. Jonathan Okorankwo’s oil painting on plywood depiction of a combustion engine highlights a superior attention to detail and ingenuity.

One of the striking elements of Cornfields in Accra is the artists’ attitude towards what we perceive as waste. A greater proportion of the installations are made from worn-out, discarded and unwanted materials including sugar sculptures of human organs, a towering column of snail shells that runs through the centre of the building, experimentations with light and robotics, old VCR cassette tapes re-engineered into geometric blocks, cryptic wall hanging, wittily defaced posters and a tower of cattle horns sitting on the roof of the building. Accra, which has the world’s largest e-waste dump at Agbogbloshie, an infamous suburb of the city has problems managing all the kinds of waste it produces. The selected students from 2016 graduating class, alumni and special guest artists use the magic of their ingenuity to metamorphosize seemingly unimportant items into objects beyond their literal form, stunning yet mentally disturbing mirrors of our society.

In a small dark room at one corner of the first floor, the exhibition also pays homage to Cameroonian conceptual artist, Goddy Leye. The sound-inspired installation is from Leye’s participation in the 2009 SaNsA International Artists Workshop, in Kumasi and combines millet and electronics to produce sound. The two-month long free exhibition whilst serving as an incubator for upcoming contemporary artists in Ghanaian is also attempting to breathe life into the stale culture of art appreciation in these parts. The work on display has moved beyond the orange sunsets and market scene paintings to something much more disruptive and engaging. Cornfields in Accra is a must see of anyone wishing to experience the strong breeze blowing through the Ghanaian art scene.


Cornfields in Accra: KNUST end-of-year Exhibition is at the Museum of Science and Technology, Accra from  Friday July 17th till  Saturday August 13, 2016.

Find the fill list of participating artists here