Renowned for his creative vision as the Founder and Creative Artistic Director of Manju Journal, Richmond Orlando Mensah is preparing to make his mark in the literary world with his debut book titled ‘VOICES- Ghana’s Artists In Their Own Words,’ set for release in September.
‘VOICES’ is an ambitious and remarkable art book that pays homage to Ghanaian visual artists and the thriving arts community of the country. Featuring more than 80 exclusive interviews, the publication delves into the minds of Ghanaian visual artists, curators, and gallerists, whether they work within the country or as part of the diaspora.
In an exclusive interview with 3XTRA, Richmond Orlando Mensah shares his inspiration and journey behind creating this extraordinary book. The project stemmed from a collaboration with London-based independent publisher Twentyfour Thirtysix, who noticed a surge of creatives and artists on social media proudly displaying the Ghanaian flag in their bios.
The idea of spotlighting Ghana’s creative scene, as well as its significant influence on London’s creative landscape, became a compelling premise for the book.
With an editorial policy that emphasizes the artists’ own words, ‘VOICES’ magnifies the collective voice of this remarkable community, collectively documenting what Richmond refers to as ‘the new vanguard of Ghanaian art.’
As the release date approaches, Richmond Orlando Mensah expressed deep gratitude to all the artists, institutions, and galleries who contributed their time and insights, making this ambitious book possible.
What made you decide to write this book?
Manju Journal was approached by London-based independent publisher, Twentyfour Thirtysix with the idea of collaborating on a book about Ghana. During lockdown, they noticed how many creatives and artists they followed on social media posted the Ghanaian flag in their bio, and then also, how many Ghanaians were leading London’s creative scene including Edward Enninful, Ozwald Boateng, Ekow Eshun and Michaela Cole. It’s obviously something we as a team have been aware of, so we loved the idea though the scope felt daunting. During our initial discussions, we decided to focus solely on visual artists rather than include the equally exciting worlds of Ghanaian fashion and music.
Did you face any challenges considering the book features over 80 exclusive interviews?
I would say making this book project was really an interesting one because usually, with a group book about art, you don’t need permission to feature an artist. You simply hire an art journalist, editor or a curator to write a third-person profile of each artist but because we wanted to document the country’s art scene properly, we interviewed each artist, over eighty of them, either in person or online. ‘VOICES’ is a first-person account; there’s no outsider gaze or viewpoint. However, that approach meant that if we couldn’t interview an artist then we were not able to feature them in the book. We are not trying to be comprehensive, it’s not a directory- it’s a brilliant snapshot of what’s happening now in Ghana and in the diaspora.
What do you hope that a reader will take away?
We are spotlighting what I believe to be Africa’s most vibrant arts scene, and therefore it is seen internationally as the vanguard. We want this book to document the powerful creative scene in Ghana and moreover, contribute to making art from Africa mainstream as well as to serve as a guide to anyone interested in exploring contemporary arts from the continent.
Care to share any spoilers?
Well, first of all, there are really great and amazing creatives featured in this book whether working in the country or as part of the global diaspora. We were mindful to feature a diverse selection of artists from newly graduated painters to the wonderful 94-year-old photographer, James Barnor. And not just painters and photographers- it was important to acknowledge the great variety of visual artists in Ghana and the diaspora including textile designers, ceramicists, sculptors and filmmakers.
What are your expectations on how the public will react to your book?
This is a book we believe is a legacy celebrating the wonderful community of Ghanaian artists in the country and the diaspora – the first of its kind book. We really hope that it will encourage people to explore more contemporary African artists, galleries and curators.
What’s the inspiration behind the title?
The title creatively points out a community of artists collectively documenting what I call ‘the new vanguard of Ghanaian art’. Our editorial policy was to publish the artists in their own words: individually, they speak about their art backgrounds, their craft and methodology plus the community that they share.
Any ‘Thank you’s’ to anyone?
First of all, I would like to thank all the artists, institutions and galleries who gave us their time whether in person or online in order to make this book, which for a group artbook is pretty unique. You are young but have accomplished a lot at national and international level. What is your advice to young people? My advice to every young person is to be intentional about their craft. The journey may be long, it is the end that matters.
By Esther Aryee|3Xtra.tv|Ghana