A Ghanaian writer, filmmaker and gallery owner is about to launch a series of portable museums that will take art and cultural artefacts to all ten regions of her country.
This pioneering project is hoping to link the familiar with the unfamiliar by creating museums within simple kiosks, the pint-sized one-room containers that are an omnipresent feature in West Africa. Dotting roadsides and street corners, these semi-legal containers are typically used to host hairdressers, mechanics and shops selling everything from household supplies to fruit and veg. As such, Ghanaians are so familiar with entering them that the idea of wading into one to see an art exhibit is anything but daunting. The juxtaposition of art and the simply-made containers has been said to provoke conversation and work as a tool for learning.
Nana Oforiatta Ayim, who founded the project, has said that the museums’ contents will evolve at each location. In fact, she will be asking people to bring in objects – photographs, old letters and documents – for her to put on display. The idea is that the local nature of the exhibits will further facilitate visitors’ interactions with them.
To design the movable museums Ayim worked with DK Osseo-Asare, an architect who has been researching kiosk culture for more than ten years. Their main goal is to make the infrastructure and project sustainable, and to move away from the Western-style ‘white cube’ galleries. Ayim told the Guardian that she started to plan her museum model for Africa while working at the British Museum in London. After being struck by how differently objects from Africa were encountered in the museum’s display cabinets, in comparison to how they were actively used back at home, she started to look for ways to preserve and present material culture that was more in line with Ghanaian traditions.
The first kiosk museum was placed at the Chale Wote festival in Jamestown, where photographs by Ofoe Amegavie were displayed with various other artefacts. Every visitor was encouraged to interact with the objects and to share their memories. It certainly proved a success, with the eight-square-metre kiosk welcoming a few thousand people. The moveable museums will be moving across Ghana in earnest in December.