Bleaching creams to flood Ghana as Cote d’Ivoire, Mecca of its production bans the products

Days after a ban was issued by Ghana’s neighbour, Cote d’Ivoire, on skin lightening products, the mantle has been passed onto the government of Ghana to heighten its checks on the influx of such harmful products onto the Ghanaian market.

Cote d’Ivoire, notable for the production of assorted skin lightening products, banned them because of “fears of lasting damage to health”, says the Ivorian health ministry.

The ban affects whitening creams and lotions containing mercury and its derivatives, cortisone, vitamin A or more than two percent hydroquinine, a lightening agent that is used to develop photographs.

“The number of people with side effects caused by these medicines is really high,” said Christian Doudouko, a member of Ivory Coast’s pharmaceutical authority, warning that they could cause skin cancer.

The use of the creams is increasing in Ghana and also believed to be even more widespread in Nigeria.

Every cosmetic shop in Makola Market, main market of the Central Business District of Accra displays varieties of skin lightening products with very attractive packaging and names mostly from Cote d’Ivoire.

Although the phenomenon of skin bleaching is not new and the effects visible on the streets of major cities of the country, a directive from government against its sale is yet to be conveyed.

Samuel Tete Katchan paintings at Francophonie Festival 2015

The 2015 Francophonie Festival held at the Alliance Francaise in Accra in March displayed a number of artworks. Our spotlight today is on the paintings of Togolese artist based in Ghana, Samuel Tete

Our spotlight today is on the paintings of Togolese artist based in Ghana, Samuel Tete Katchan. They were displayed at the Art Studio of Alliance Francaise.

Enjoy sceneries from the Festival below and the paintings by the talented painter, Samuel Tete Katchan.

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Accra gives Jazz legend, Earl Klugh, a standing ovation

Characterized by an outpour of Jazz enthusiasts, the Stanbic Ghana Jazz Festival in Accra savoured live the all-time favourite records of legendary Jazz musician, Earl Klugh, who himself was stunned by the warm reception at the Accra International Conference Centre on February 19-20, 2015.

With songs including Midnight in San Juan, Heartstring, Wishful Thinking, Vonetta and Cabo Frio, the discerning audience called for more from the 61-year-old master of the acoustic classical guitar.

Earl Klugh touched the right nerves with his 5-man band made up of Stan Sergeant on the electric bass guitar, Tom Braxton on the alto/soprano sax and flute, Marcus Finnie on the drums and hilarious David Lee Spradley on the piano.

Applause after applause to each song in the hour and a half performance, Earl Klugh expressed appreciation for the kind reception Ghanaians gave him. The man of few words said: “This is a wonderful experience and I want to thank all of you and my band.”

The band displayed classic skill as each member pulled a stunning display in between performances. Stuck in the memories of the audience will be that of drummer, Marcus Finnie, who at the seeming end of the performance twirled his drumsticks rhythmically across his trap set for close to five minutes winning the admiration of all including the other band members.

One of Earl Klugh’s oldest songs, ‘Vonetta’ brought the Jazz spectacle to an end with the audience on their feet in applause as the band took a bow.

Crème de la crème of Ghana were present at the festival including former President John Agyekum Kufuor, Nana Akufo-Addo, Dr Kwesi Botchway, Albert and Comfort Ocran, Fred Amugi, Kofi Anyidoho among a host of other prominent people in the country.

The two-day festival also witnessed performances from Ghana’s Jasper Band, Big Wellington Trio, Kyekyeku, Stanbic Rhythms, Akablay, Bernard Ayisa-Victor Dey Quintet and legendary Ebo Taylor.

Watch Earl Klugh below as he performed ‘Wishful Thinking’ at the Accra International Conference Centre.


Bringing creative artworks to the people, Ghana’s ‘Art Prophet’ paves the way

The creative arts industry in Ghana receives the least of attention from policy makers and the public who have lost interest in the art hence killing the talents of many creative artists at the expense of the performing arts.

In Accra, the only place that comes to mind when creative artworks are needed is the Art Centre of the Centre for National Culture, where there is a pool of creative artists who mostly display their works to foreign nationals from Europe and America.

One creative artist who refuses to let the industry die out in its misery is sexagenarian scrap metal sculptor, Wanssi Massimo, who displays his sculptures in a pavement garden at Abelenkpe Junction, off the Olusegun Obasanjo Way in Accra.

Massimo, who hails from Nkonya in the Volta Region, believes art should be a consequential part of nature and his philosophy got him to secure the Garden Gallery which is under a tree with the greenery projecting the message his works convey.

Born on October 22, 1954, Wanssi Massimo calls himself an ‘Art Prophet’ because according to him, everything he touched from infancy, turned into art. Massimo, who has lived in many African countries including Tanzania and Togo says his quest in life is to demystify art as many Africans still relate it to sorcery.

Before opening up the Green Gallery in 2014, Massimo displayed his scrap metal sculptures in galleries across the country as well as exhibitions worldwide. He has participated in exhibitions in Togo, Nigeria, Benin and the United States of America where he believes the market is more in tune with the art than Ghana.

The ‘Art Prophet’ says Ghana has no art market, attributing the failure in that regard to the walls built around art works in the country which makes it difficult for people to see and express an interest.

“People cannot even get close to beautiful artworks created from the environment which are locked up in galleries. As soon as they take a peep through the glass windows, they refrain from entering with the notion that it is expensive. Art is priceless,” he said.

Massimo explains that the only market in the country for creative artworks are for expatriates who know the worth of art but, unfortunately, buy in seasons. He believes the appreciation level is very low in Ghana.

At his gallery, you will find beautiful fabrications made of scrap metal either shaped in human forms performing activities like drumming; or animal forms like the snake and giraffe. The giraffe, for example, has its mid-section made up of a small gas cylinder and its head made of some bolts and nuts.

Massimo chooses to leave the meanings of each sculpture to the eyes and mind of each observer to decipher according to their state of mind.

The scrap metals, he said, are handpicked by himself at the Agbogbloshie and Gallaway markets in Accra where most of the scrap metals from the city are disposed of. He then takes them to his workshop cum residence at Alajo where it takes days or weeks to mould depending on the inspiration he has.

He credits his wife of 33 years and four daughters for his inspiration as he always involves them in selection of what to be fixed where, with the aim of depicting natural situations that will create a story in the mind’s eye.

Wanssi Massimo started his display of sculptures at the pavement garden with one sculpture some two years ago. His motive was to observe the natural reaction of people who saw it; surprisingly, it was positive.

The responses got him to add other sculptures to the open-air gallery which led him to secure a license to legally occupy the pavement garden with his works. Aside beautifying the area, the gallery feeds himself and his family exclusively.

Massimo hopes to expand his gallery for a better capture of people’s imagination and is optimistic the upcoming artists will follow his lead to feed art to the people rather than wait for the people to come to art; which in Ghana, is almost impossible.

He cited an example of a government official who saw some of his sculptures and expressed interest. At the mention of the price, the Minister exclaimed: “Is this something edible?”

Massimo shuddered in awe at the attitude of policy makers regarding the creative art industry. He believes those in authority do not understand the creative arts hence their inability to give a listening ear to artists.

“They should advise us on what to advise them for them to listen to us for once,” he concludes.

As long as there are people like Wanssi Massimo, creative arts will live on.

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Who is to rescue Ghanaian event organizers with proper venues?

It’s a pity Ghana cannot boast of an adequate multi-purpose indoor facility such as the O2 Arena in London or the Staples Center and Nokia Theatre in Downtown LA or Madison Square Garden in New York City, for our numerous entertainment concerts and events.

The above mentioned venues form part of many places Ghanaian artistes dream of having at least a performance, but no one has ever talked of contributing to building an almost similar edifice to save us the discomfort.

The 20,000 seat Staples Centre which opened in 1999 after a year of construction cost $375 million to build and financed privately by the owners, the L.A. Arena Company and Anschutz Entertainment Group. It hosts over 250 events including basketball, hockey, boxing and concerts with nearly 4,000,000 guests a year.

It is not different from the O2 Arena in London which seats 20,000 people being the second largest in UK after the Manchester Arena.

The Madison Square Garden in Manhattan is the third-busiest music arena in the world in terms of ticket sales hosting approximately 320 events a year. At a total construction cost of approximately $1.1 billion, Madison Square Garden has been ranked as one of the ten most expensive stadium venues ever built.

Now to Ghana where we have used and abused the National Theatre and the Accra International Conference Centre which only seats 1500 and 1600 people respectively.

The capacity can’t hold the growing population of entertainment lovers judging by the high attendance at these venues with many hanging around due to lack of seats.

The Dome by the Conference Centre which was built in 2008 specifically for the UNCTAD conference became a necessary choice for event organizers due to its extra seating capacity but currently it’s still “under renovation”.

The Accra Stadium has grown in popularity among event organizers playing hosts to international artistes like Chris Brown and Akon. The 40,000 seating capacity stadium was filled up during the recent Big Eruption and Sonnie Badu Concerts.

But of course it’s not the most suitable venue considering its outdoor characteristics leaving attendants at the mercy of the weather and creates a lot of hitches for organizers.

The only solution is to build at least one multi-purpose indoor arena that could host at least 50,000 people. But the question is: Who should build that event saver?

The religious events have been blessed with the Perez Dome of the Perez Chapel International at Dzorwulu which has a seating capacity of 14000, bigger than the National Theatre and Conference Centre combined.

The dome being an indoor venue has already hosted many renowned international preachers and gospel music celebrities like Morris Cellulo, Don Moen and Kirk Franklin, with organizers under pressure as more seats were required for the already filled venue.

Event organizers make money that’s why they keep organizing shows, artistes make money that’s why they keep bragging about it and sponsors have money that’s why they keep sponsoring.

It is about time there is a created partnership to pool funds in order to build a multi –purpose arena, like the Staples Centre, to host local and international concerts, boxing matches and other events rather than wait for another 50 years for government to make the move.

Shouldn’t we “put our money where our mouth is”?