Ghana’s first photo festival opens 12-21 September

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“We do not need to specifically just focus on changing stereotypes of what being African is through our visual storytelling; I think that’s an additional burden that other artists from other continents are not expected to subscribe to. I do think that through our visual storytelling, whatever theme we choose, and the quality of our work, we already do so much to challenge external perceptions of the African continent,” says Ngadi Smart, one of the image-makers whose work will feature in the exhibition Foreseen: New Narratives from the African Photojournalism Database.

It’s just one of the shows in the forthcoming Nuku Photo Festival Ghana, the first event of its kind in the country. Featuring exhibitions, a conference, a portfolio review, and networking events, Nuku Photo Festival Ghana aims to “create a space for artistic explorations and exchanges”, according to the festival founder Nii Obodai. “For this first edition, we have curated a diverse programme in cooperation with local and international partners that showcases the works of 40 both established and up-and-coming photographers and visual artists.”

The Foreseen show gathers work by 13 emerging African visual storytellers, for example, gathered from the African Photojournalism Database – a project of the World Press Photo Foundation and Everyday Africa. “At the core of the APJD is the mission to celebrate refreshing and diverse stories told by photographers often overlooked by the global media industry – stories that are not widely seen in the current, exclusive media landscape,” reads the press for the event.

“Offering reimagined visual narratives from across the African continent, ‘Foreseen’ explores themes such as tradition, religion, identity, history, memory and daily life. This collection of work celebrates a new generation of photographers who are redefining what should be seen, and how, through the stories that matter to them.”

Other exhibitions include a show titled Daily Graphic, inspired by the work contributed Ghana’s foremost state-owned newspaper and including images by local and international photographers such as Nana Kofi Acquah, Evans Ahorsu, George Alhassan, Ofoe Amegavie, Deryk Owusu Bempah, and Emmanuel Bobbie. The exhibition Women & Work showcases images taken by female photographers aged 13-28, meanwhile, showing a variety of work carried out by women and inspired by the idea that “when you empower a woman, you empower a nation”.

From the series Elmina © Nana Kofi Acquah, from the exhibition Daily Graphic

Life According to James Barnor is a retrospective by the celebrated Ghanaian photographer, showing work he shot in Ghana and the UK from 1948-1980; Martinican photographer Robert Charlotte, meanwhile, will show images he shot while on residency for the Nuku Photo Festival, under the framework Transatlantic artistic dialogues: Caribbean – West Africa.

The exhibition Northern Ghana Life gathers work made in the region over the past three years by 11 photographers, overseen by Nuku Studio and Noorderlicht curator Marc Prüst, and run in collaboration with an academic project involving four universities – University of Ghana in Legon, University of Development Studies in Wa and Tamale, Leiden University, and University of Groningen, The Netherlands. The exhibition includes work by internationally-known image-makers Peter DiCampo, Benedicte Kurzen, and Patrick Willocq as well as local talents such as Abdulai Adam, Francis Kokoroko, and the festival founder Nii Obodai. This exhibition will also be accompanied by a book.

“Northern Ghana has rarely been the subject of collaborative photographic research, and in a historical and a photographic sense we may even go as far as to call it a terra incognita,” says Obodai. “The stories by the photographers invite us to explore the diverse and dynamic region that is Northern Ghana. They provide a visual interpretation of a largely undocumented landscape, and document its current state-of-affairs for future generations.”

The Nuku Photo Festival Ghana takes place from 12-21 September, with the exhibitions opening at various points throughout the 10 days

The “Nigerian Superman” in mid-acrobatic act, Accra, 1958 © James Barnor. From the exhibition Life according to James Barnor
Arise Fashion Show, Lagos © Leke Alabi Isama, from the exhibition Foreseen
Iddi Suleiman In Dagomba War Dress from the series Messengers of the Gods, 2016 © Nii Obodai, from the exhibition Northern Ghana Life
Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is a freelance journalist who contributes to publications such as The Guardian, The Observer, The FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, The Calvert Journal, Aperture, FOAM, IMA, Aesthetica and Apollo Magazine. Prior to going freelance, she wrote and edited at BJP for 15 years. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy