Artists ready to take advantage of US$60bn industry …as 22-yr old exhibits his works

A contemporary artist in Ghana, Joseph Awuah-Darko, has expressed optimism about the Ghanaian arts industry, saying players are doing finer works which now makes them better-placed to take advantage of the art market worth US$63.7billion worldwide.

Speaking to the B&FT at a solo exhibition organised by Gallery 1957, the British-born Ghanaian artist, 22, said artists have realised the value of the arts industry and are ready to take on the world, and hence must be encouraged.

“In the past, artists were not much informed about the business side of being an artist. But now artists have equipped themselves with the knowledge to know that art is a business, and so they are producing very beautiful works to take advantage of this trend,” he said.

Young Awuah-Darko’s work, dubbed ‘Our Treasures’, attracted the attention of many given the recycled materials he uses from electronic waste as a message to fighting climate change.

As part of his works, he uses electric structural bodies of work and afro-futuristic 3D printed art using upcycled plastic, granting renewed life and energy to materials that are otherwise perceived as worthless.

“The main focus of my work is to shed light on how human beings need to change how they treat the environment, and that is why these three themes – consumerism, capitalism and climate action— are captured in my work,” he said.

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Awuah-Darko’s passion to use recycled materials for his work sprang from his first visit to the Agbobloshie Market in Accra, an experience he describes as shocking.

“When I saw Agbobloshie for the first time, I was shocked. I was astounded because it was a de facto state. It seemed as though it was neglected by the public sector. There was a lot of recycling, but it was done in a manner and in a fashion that was harmful to the environment, which has several severe connotations in terms of environmental degradation.

“And so, I decided people must understand that this is a billion-dollar informal sector, where we can actually create value from the things that are considered refuse, waste and scrap. So, because I am creatively inclined and an artist at heart, I chose to upcycle material and make it into artworks.

Gallery 1957 is an Accra-based gallery working internationally to present exhibitions, installations and performances by the region’s most significant artists.