Sunday, August 1, 2010

If You Like Art...

My sister and I are very different people. Because we don't share many physical similarities, it's not easy linking us together as sisters. One of the major discrepancies is the distribution of talent. My sister is a natural creative artist. Her very first temper tantrum was actually about art. After spending at least an hour trying to understand through her tears what "yellow paper, white paper" actually meant (this occurred when the breadth of her vocabulary included at most 50 words), every member of the family was busy turning the house upside down searching for whatever type of paper product would fit her feeble sniffle-laden description. In the end, we discovered that it was the misplacement of her Disney's The Lion King notebook that became her very first sketchbook that elicited all of the screaming and crying. She has been drawing and painting ever since.

While I am to this day still very jealous of her artistic gifts, she has helped me develop a strong appreciation for the arts. A trip to the Met or MoMA in New York is really not the same if she is not there. Since she's busy in Shanghai this summer designing all sorts of buildings, I'm also on my own here in Ghana.

One of Bernard Mensah's pieces

While I may not have the same refined eyes of my sister, I do think that the traditional arts scene in Ghana is extremely vibrant. There are amateur artists all over selling any kind of traditional arts and crafts. For the sake of efficiency, I'd recommend Kumasi's National Cultural Center for your art and souvenir shopping fix. In the Cultural Center, you will find a wide variety of expertly skilled artisans with permanent shops that not only display their refined work, but also demonstrate how these traditional crafts are made. You can find wood work, kente cloth weaving, pottery, goldsmithing, paintings, and much more. During the summer for about 6-8 weeks, local artists from the city augment the crafts in the Cultural Center with their own wares (a perfect place to hone your bargaining skills).

One of Philip's pieces

Perhaps this is a result of my sister's influence on me, but of all of the traditional crafts I've come across in Ghana, the paintings created a unique impression on me. Although most of the paintings depict seemingly ordinary facets of Ghanaian life and culture, they truly are reflective of the Ghanaian spirit. Each painting is a kaleidoscope of colors and perfect blend of broad brush strokes and detailed minutia that seems to artfully capture the essence of Ghana. The subject of a painting may just be a single woman carrying a pot on top of her head and a baby on her back, but leaping off the painting is a tangible energy--a movement that draws you in.

Outside Philip's shop at the National Cultural Center in Kumasi

Since the National Cultural Center is just across the street from the Clinical Student's Hostel, I have had several opportunities to not just stop by to enjoy the beautiful paintings, but I've had the fortune of meeting the talent behind these masterpieces. My favorite artists are Philip and Bernard Mensah. I have picked up a few of their pieces to bring the Ghanaian spirit back to the US with me.

I may still be searching for my talent since artistry completely passed over me, but these artists in Ghana clearly have a talent worth sharing. If you are interested in any of their work, you can contact them directly: Philip ( and Bernard Mensah (

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for supporting my creativity Eva! I hope we can go to some museums or art galleries during winter break! Hope you are enjoying yours stay at home this long weekend! :) I love you.