This project started with an empty and white room. A temporary living space that felt pretty much like a gallery, so to say hygienic. To turn that space a dash homelier I decided to bring along any branch, stone, seed that I would find sitting lonely while I walked down the streets of this strangely familiar city. This “objects” became my companions for a short period of time. Issa Samb, important Senegalese artist and thinker (who sadly died this year) said that objects many times decided where they wanted to go and –for doing so– they would talk to the passersby in a magical way. Samb suggests that whenever you pick up an object it is because you feel your-self reflected in it. A magical dialogue occurs between the human and the object; an intrinsic dialogue with the material world.
“The sea does not have a name but it belongs to the rock.” – Jacob Outu
When I first came to Apam I was void, I had done no research, I wanted to be blank, open, alert. As part of my research I decided not to take any photographs by thinking they could be too intrusive, too objectifying. Instead, I dedicated my time to catch stories, to search for the stories that narrated Apam and its neighboring village Abrekum. Stories and names are usually tight together, there is a name behind a story and a story behind a name; I am always searching for the ghost that lives between these two. I walked around the bay and up the hills to search for these stories, I was hesitant of my role as an artist, but especially as a foreigner. What is the purpose of art? What is the purpose of travelling? Could I contribute to these towns with my research? I don’t know, till this moment I question my practice. But what I can say is that I learnt. These teachings were not evident, they were disguised by a foreign language and a foreign culture. The stories had a meaning that I could not fully understand. Stories are never transparent. For this collection of memories and stories I talked to about 20 inhabitants of the Apam bay, one of them, a taxi driver, became a friend. He drove me to his house and talk to me about his notions of life, this conversation was not recorded however it reached me deeply. That is the value that I find in talking to people: to be able to witness their experiences, what they have learned form life and maybe communicate those teachings. Here, I select only a few passages, a few stories that where gathered in the bay next to a nameless sea. The collages positioned before them are my graphic interpretation of the same.
This work was possible thanks to the kindness and translation of Jude Kurankyi and Isabella Narh.
Narrated by Kobina Essandoh Baidoo
It all started this way, about 500 years ago there was a civil war close to Cape Coast. At that time all Fanti people were together living at the same place, but the violence spread them out. The Fanti tribe was no longer together. They were fighting against each other for the possession of the land.
In one village there was a fetish priest, she was a woman. She was married and was pregnant but one sad day her husband was killed in one battle day during the civil war. She was left alone and she had to protect her unborn child. Since she was a fetish priest, she had the ability to be invisible from time to time. So, anytime they tried to shoot her, she would disappear from the environment, she would be part of the trees and the soil around her.
She continued disappearing, every time someone would attack her she would melt into the landscape to appear in another town. One of these days she ended up in one town close to the sea, in a small bay survailed by the nanapassa rock. When she arrived in this town she was really tired. She decided to rest under the shade of a palm tree when suddenly a man, a hunter, showed up. The fetish priest saw that the hunter was holding a gun and she thought that the hunter was one of the enemies. She had no more energies to dissapear and move to another town. She was exhausted. The only sentence that she could articulate was: “I am exhausted, you can kill me”. Abre-kum.
The hunter was not there to kill her and, as he saw ther tiredness and her condition, he took her home where the new baby and the new town was born. The town of Abrekum.
Narrated by Adwoa Nyiamful
The day I gave birth to my son that was the very day that they overthrew the first Ghanaian president. And there was no water in the city; people were bringing water from outside. I had a fresh baby, there was no water and so we had to take sea water to clean the baby’s body. And when my little girl mentioned that today was the day that first president Nkruma was overthrown and this baby was born, they came to arrest me and sent me to prison. When I see that these little girls are just jumping around, playing around, it’s funny for me because they have not seen anything yet. Because of the experiences that I have gone through if a man comes and marries me and then starts playing around I will immediately tell him: just pick up your things and go away. I will take care of myself. That is how I have been living my life.
Narrated by Emmanuel
Or ancestors tell us that if you go to the forest, the one located at the end of the bay in Abrekum you can see gold guarded by a ghost. The ghost is a crocodile and it will come for you and will give you some gold if you dare to come back. The crocodile is no longer there, if you go there you cannot see it anymore. The crocodile dried away.
Narrated by a salt mine owner
Q: Does you work here?
A: Yes, this place belongs to me.
Q: Since when does it belong to you?
A: I bought it in 1965.
Q: From whom did you buy it from?
A: I bought it from the government.
Q: How big is it?
A: 80 acres.
Q: Does it have a name?
A: Yes, Love and enemies.
Q: Is there a story behind the name?
A: I heard that there was a misunderstanding concerning this particular plot, so when I got it I named it “Love and enemies”.
Project developed at the Haduwa Arts and Culture Center in Apam, Ghana