A Retrospective

Photography Exhibition by James Barnor

November, 2019. Nubuke Foundation, Accra, Ghana.

There’s no way you can discuss the greats of Ghanaian Art and Photography without mentioning the works of the ever young James Barnor.

With a career taking off just after Ghana gained independence, the works of James Barnor and his contemporaries; Felicia Abban, K. Bruce-Vanderpuije, Chris Hesse, Philip Kwame Apagya and Francis K. Honny, carefully documented the new nation Ghana.

Quickly distinguishing himself, James Barnor, then a documentary and studio photographer produced breath-taking images that captured the soul and essence of Ghana in the early years as well as from his travels abroad.

“A Retrospective”, meticulously curated by Bianca Manu is an expansive body of work that displays the wide latitude of Barnor’s work, both home and abroad. Each photograph tells amazing stories that transports the viewer to the time and place, encouraging the mind to wander and travel.

Quite aptly titled, the exhibition encapsulates all aspects of life spanning from the 50’s and serves as a window for current generations to peek into, reflect and forge ahead. Albeit not distinctively clear, there’s this general quirkiness surrounding the works presented, drawing you in more and more. Barnor’s images, as a matter of fact, inspires me so much.

In essence, this extraordinary presentation at the newly re-opened Nubuke Foundation gallery space offers great insight into both the dreams and realities of the country Ghana as it came into its own. The new building’s simple, nature-clad, purposely unfinished architecture lends it a lot of character, while freeing the displayed art works from any distractions – engaging  the viewers full attention.

This was a well-attended opening and saw people from all walks of life coming in and appreciating the works of the great James Barnor. I was particularly impressed by the curation and clear categorisations of the works, as well as the accompanying ambient highlife soundscape in the gallery produced by the artist EDWVN.

Outside on the serene lawn, rhythmic local drum beats thumped repeatedly, also elegantly accompanied by melodic singing and dancing. This rich display of Ghanaian tradition was indeed a welcome addition to the event as members of the crowd joined in and danced into the late afternoon, all in celebration of the great Ghanaian artist James Barnor.

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It was also great catching up with old friends and creatives in the Ghanaian art space. Learning from masters like James Barnor, the future of the arts in Ghana definitely looks promising.

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