The Ghanaian-American Artist Helping Ghana Reclaim Its Royal History – RisePEI

Trendy historical past has most frequently been written by the Western gaze and, with that energy, comes the flexibility to regulate and form narratives.

For Africans particularly, this gaze has distorted perceptions of the continent’s various historic experiences and did not correctly mirror Africans’ true tales. A brand new technology of Africans, nevertheless, are taking possession of their nations’ histories and, in impact, serving to reclaim their narratives.

Rita Mawuena Benissan, a Ghanaian-American interdisciplinary artist, has been on the forefront of this drive. In 2020, Benissan based Si Hene, an award-winning non-profit basis accumulating and preserving archives telling tales about Ghana’s chieftaincy and conventional tradition, creating consciousness round its royal historical past, and making it accessible globally via digital media.

The nonprofit’s identify means “Enstoolment” in Ghana’s Akan language, referring to the method of elevating a chief to energy in lots of African ethnic teams.

Benissan’s work has been exhibited on the 2022 La Biennale De Dakar, 2021 Afrochella Pageant, and EFIE: Museum as Residence, a gaggle museum exhibition at Dortmund U in Germany in 2021.

ARTnews spoke to Benissan about Si Hene and fundraising to construct a museum to have a good time Ghanaian identification.

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How essential is it to you that Ghana’s chieftaincy and conventional tradition are recorded and preserved?

It is extremely essential. Chieftaincy is really the spine and root of our Ghanaian tradition. It’s extra frequent now to see totally different features of our historical past being acknowledged by the Western world at college and museum exhibitions, collections, and databases, but it surely looks as if solely 5% is situated and owned in our nation. Nearly all of Si Hene [​archives] are photographs and movies I discovered exterior which Ghana doesn’t personal.

Lots of our conventional tales are introduced orally but when the tales will not be recorded as a result of the individual that is extra educated passes on, the story additionally passes or modifications narrations.

How does your identification as a Ghanaian documenting Ghana’s royal historical past assist you to current genuine and never distorted data in comparison with when Westerners do it?

It undoubtedly helps [with] presenting the knowledge extra authentically as a result of the true perspective is revealed. We’re in a position to state the true positions that royals held, and the true translations of how cities, dances, devices, and different objects had been named and pronounced.

Lots of the tales that [come] from the Western perspective are generally deceptive or they may not be as detailed as somebody who’s from that area or somebody who has studied this from Ghana. I’ve seen plenty of our cities being renamed as a result of [their history is told from] a Western perspective.

You’re at present fundraising to construct a bodily museum and analysis institute to deal with visible archives telling Ghana’s chieftaincy and conventional tradition? What knowledgeable the choice after two years of digital documentation?

My final purpose is to have a Si Hene museum in every area to point out the traditions and particular chiefs that dominated in that area. Rising up in america, my household and faculty used to take me to museums to study totally different cultures and historic moments which made me actually recognize the significance [of that] in my life.

Having a digital archive is nice however it’s not accessible to anybody who will not be utilizing social platforms. Having a bodily constructing and house will present the chance for the neighborhood to have interaction with the photographs, books, artifacts, and different sources of visuals in individual. It additionally expands the technique of engagement and discussions that flow into the significance of our historical past.

Two large red umbrellas emblazoned with black silhouettes decorated with gold accents.

Two of Rita Mawuena Benissan’s Royal Umbrellas on show on the 2022 Dakar Biennale.
Courtesy of NLC Ghana

What was your expertise exhibiting Royal Umbrellas on the 2022 Dakar Biennale?

The principle theme for the collection of umbrellas offers with the phrase “Mmae a Ɛda Nsow!” which interprets to a Outstanding Presence. Every of the umbrellas conveys a presence that offers with its bodily presence and a historic presence.

It was a fantastic expertise. It was my first biennale and in addition my first time touring to a different African nation. Collaborating in a biennale is really a dream come true at an early begin in my artwork profession.

I used to be certainly one of three artists representing Ghana alongside Kuukua Eshun and . The show was curated by Nana Oforiatta Ayim and focused on the Museum as Home so being able to reimagine how we present our cultural experiences in institutional spaces.

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