Curator’s Choice: Beloved Ghana
A number of works of art by Ghanaian painter Kwame Akoto, aka Almighty God, address his love of his country. Akoto often employs iconic and recognizable symbols to express his pride: from the red, gold, and green of the Ghanaian flag; to popular political figures, such as Kwame Nkrumah and Kofi Annan; to Asante kings and queen mothers. These images stem, in part, from the central role Ghana played in pan-African politics in the 1950s and 1960s, and the pride Ghanaians felt as their nation was among the first in sub-Saharan Africa to assert its independence in the 1950s.
Betsy D. Quick, co-curator of ‘How Do You See This World?”: The Art of Almighty God, will offer a brief introduction to the exhibition and selected works that speak to the diversity of imagery that define Akoto’s style. Then, Kevin Gaines, Julian Bond Professor of Civil Rights and Social Justice at the University of Virginia, and Raymond Silverman, professor emeritus of history of art, African studies, and museum studies at the University of Michigan, will discuss a selection of paintings by Akoto that express his affection for his Asante heritage, pride for his homeland, “Beloved Ghana,” and, more broadly, how this patriotism is manifest among Ghanaians today. They will also explore Akoto’s fascination with the history of the United States, especially its presidents, and the important role Africans in the diaspora played in shaping the Pan-African movement in Ghana and beyond.
Kevin K. Gaines is the Julian Bond Professor of Civil Rights and Social Justice at the University of Virginia, with a joint appointment in the Corcoran Department of History and the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies. He is the author of The African American Journey: A Global History (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2023). His current book project, The World the Civil Rights Movement Made, argues that internal tensions within the movement and among African Americans gave rise to subsequent thought and activism that envisioned expansive democratic conceptions of human rights and Black liberation.
Raymond Silverman, a historian of the visual cultures of Africa, is professor emeritus of history of art, African studies, and museum studies at the University of Michigan. His research and writing have explored historical and contemporary visual practices in Ethiopia and Ghana, and museum and heritage discourse in Africa. Silverman’s recent work has focused on the visual culture of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the 20th and 21st centuries, resulting in his book Ethiopian Church Art: Painters, Patrons, Purveyors (2022). He also published National Museums in Africa: Identity, History and Politics (2022).
Betsy D. Quick is guest co-curator of ‘How Do You See This World?”: The Art of Almighty God and former director of education at the Fowler Museum. She has authored publications and articles on the teaching of world arts and humanities; was a contributing author to Wrapped in Pride: Ghanaian Kente and African American Identity; and curated a number of African art exhibitions at the Fowler, including Mandela for President: South Africa Votes for Democracy and Yards of Style: African-Print Cloths from Ghana. Quick also served as project director and co-curator of African-Print Fashion Now! A Story of Taste, Globalization.
Join curators for lively conversations about their passions and projects that inspire audiences to engage with different worldviews and find joy in the multiplicity of human experiences.
Image credit: Kwame Akoto (Almighty God) (b. 1950, Kumasi, Ghana), “Pres. DR. KWAME NKRUMAH. 1st President of the Republic of Ghana,” before 2014; pigment on plywood; Ernie Wolfe Gallery.