Sunday, 25 September 2011

“Kwame Nkrumah” by Angus Amankwa – Buadu. Oil on Canvas. 60”x34 inches. Oil on Canvas.

This painting is simply titled “Kwame Nkrumah”. It is celebration of the man who led Ghana to freedom on the 6th of March 1957 and like a symbol of Nkrumah’s political life. The painting’s composition has been divided into two. At its top, well known pictures of Kwame Nkrumah and at the bottom sites associated with him and also the Kente cloth symbolising the unity of Ghana’s one nation, form the very upper tip of the Upper Regions to the bottom of the Guinea coast. Various signs have also been placed on the painting like a stamp to help us verify Nkrumah.

In the foreground of the painting we have he traditional horn blower with a blue cloth tied around his waist with convincing folds Angus paints well. He is a dark man with a defined strong physique which adds strength and importance to what his mission is; which is to blow the horn. The horn which his eyes are fixed on. In blowing the horn he opens the painting like a theatre curtain being lifted to present a performance. And in this circumstance, the performance is that of Nkrumah.  The horn gilded with the sheen of gold shows the specialness of the occasion. Also at the Nkrumah memorial park we see statues of men blowing horns in front of Nkrumah and this man reminds the viewer of one of them.

At the top half of the painting Nkrumah is presented in three portraits, the main one being in the middle is a frontal view of Nkrumah’s face. The tone of his skin works but his features of lines on his face are over defined, making his lips seem more prominent than they once were. Angus can definitely draw features but needs to work on it to make his features appear more subtle. Although, Nkrumah’s signature forehead is represented well and his attire is suppose to be of the traditional kente cloth. The patterns and colours of the kente cloth are those expected including the adjoining weaving lines and the red, oranges, blue, greens and black colours. But after Nkrumah’s hand the fabric changes to another kente print and the viewer is left to ask why, in a portrait taken from a photograph. Also Nkrumah’s white top is dotted with gold to add some brightness to the painting but here again his top changes to the colour of gold on the left handside of his body and again the viewer is left asking why it should be so? Angus is seen to be mixing photomontage with some imagination. Angus does seem to have a good hand for folds in drapery which he does very well but not brilliantly. Nkrumah’s hand with the raised finger is part of the group of images that take centre stage in the painting. The hand is defined in structure but is too big to fit the anatomy of Nkrumah in this painting. On the left next to Nkrumah’s hand is the Ghana’s coat of Arms reminding one of our logo as a country, “freedom and justice”. The coat of arms is held up by two eagles which are known for their swiftness, cleverness in action which can be compared to wisdom, observance, a healthy dose of pride and presence; character references which I wish for all our people. Eagles fly alone and with its confidence it succeeds. So imagine what a union of eagles like the two holding the coat of arms can do.

On the top of the coat of arms is the black star, the same black star represented on the triumphal arch, which can be found in the independence square in Accra, seen in the painting on the right hand side of Nkrumah’s hand. The triumphal arch was a structure built by the Ancient Romans as a sign of victory. And indeed Nkrumah along with Ghana overcame a great hurdle in 1957 to attain victory and regain Ghana’s freedom. Angus does well in his observation of the blocks used to build the triumphal arch. He is careful to pick out the different shades of the blocks and also in doing so adds detail and solidarity to the structure. The six roundels that can be found on the triumphal arch are also represented in the painting. 
The black star itself reminds us of “black power” and black victory. The black star will continue to shine forever as a pride of all Africans in the diaspora and with Ghana at 50 it looks to be shining brighter than ever in all its associated contents. The colour black in ancient Egypt was a colour seen as good. The first name of Egypt was “Kemet” meaning black land and out of the darkest soil, because it is filled with more nutrients, came the best farm produce for the Egyptians. Our dark skin is one of value; God created us with the soil of the land (according to the Old testament). Kemet/Nubia being part of our origins we cannot forget that. The triumphal arch completes the three things that take centre stage in the painting.

At the top left and right of the painting are two side views of Nkrumah both popular pictures; with this Angus reminds us of the photomontage technique. In addition to this the lines of light in light blue, blue, yellow and pink gives the painting a sixties retro feel representing the time of Nkrumah’s rule as the first president of Ghana. The lines of colour also complements the sky below the portraits of Nkrumah, pulls the painting together and adds harmony. In European art, side portraits are those expected on coins with royalty or aristocratic images on them. Being represented in such a fashion gave the person a sense of immortality and importance combined; enough to leave their mark on society which Nkrumah did worldwide.
On the portrait on the left are two Adrinkra signs. The top one which looks like a cross means in Twi “Kra Pa”, good fortune and sanctity, a wish Nkrumah promised to Ghana after regaining independence. The bottom Adrinka sign is that of in Twi “Nsoroma”, a star, a child of the heavens; trying to indicate that Nkrumah was a kind of saviour for Ghana in 1957 in regaining our freedom from the British. Ghana was the first country in Africa to do so and inspired many others to follow. The whole of Africa during Ghana at fifty is now “free forever”.

On the bottom left of the painting is the structure built to commemorate Nkrumah at the Nkrumah Memorial Park in Accra; again here Angus picks out the brickwork in the structure. The grass and steps found at the park are also represented in the painting and on the grass the painter has placed the Ghana national flag. In death we still honour Nkrumah and Ghana with a flag representing the blood our forefathers shed to regain our land (red), the gold we posses (gold), and the endless vegetation of our land (green). The black star again is represented. The flag in this painting takes the place of the Nkrumah statue we are used to seeing in the memorial park. Afterall without Kwame Nkrumah we may have not had our freedom in 1957 and for that we say thank you, long live Ghana and also with God, Gye Nyame, to quote Nkrumah “backward never!”.  Angus does well in reminding the viewer of a time in Ghana’s history and views associated with Nkrumah.            
This painting can be found at the National Gallery of Art at the Centre for National Culture, Accra; previously named the Arts Centre.

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