News Brief

This Ghanaian Art Historian is Creating a 54-Volume Encyclopedia on African Culture

Nana Oforiatta-Ayim's "Cultural Encyclopedia Project" will chronicle historical and contemporary art, music and literature from each African country.

Ghanaian writer and art historian, Nana Oforiatta-Ayim, was a PhD student back in 2009,  when she first conceived the idea of creating a comprehensive archive of African art and culture.


“I would go to the underground library vaults, and I would find theses that were so brilliant and interesting, and yet no one was looking at it and it is so valuable, she tells The New York Times. "I would get completely sidetracked reading about things like the technology of kente cloth. And at the same time I was also thinking that the narrative that is told about Africa is still the backward narrative: no innovation, it’s ahistorical and stuck. Yet with everything I was reading, it was stories of innovation, of knowledge, of technology."

Now, Oforiatta-Ayim's idea is coming to life through her "Cultural Encyclopedia Project," which will chronicle art from each African country, hence its 54 separate volumes. The first volume will be an internet-based repository of historical and contemporary Ghanaian art, literature music and more, reports The New York Times.

The project, which received a $40,000 grant from the Los Angeles County Museum in 2015, aims to help preserve the creations of African artists and help build knowledge about the Continent's history.

Oforiatta-Ayim, who's previously worked with Sir David Adjaye—the architect behind the National Museum of African American History and Culture's building— has gathered a team of Ghanaian musicians, filmmakers, photographers, writers and more to help curate and edit the encyclopedia's first volume.

It's an immense undertaking, and each countries entry will likely take a couple of years to complete, but Oforiatta-Ayim has already created a plan on how to roll out future volumes. "So if other countries are going to take it on, then we are going to have a manual like, ‘this is how we collect things, this is what we did wrong and this is what we did right.' There is no reason that, once we have the manual, there can’t be five countries at the same time working. So what I am doing is building teams in different countries," she says.

There will also be art exhibits to accompany the online encyclopedia, the first of which premiered last week at Oforiatta-Ayim's ANO gallery and research institution, in conjunction with Ghana's 60th independence day.

The significance of the groundbreaking project is certainly not lost on those involved in its production. “What makes up the culture itself? And that is why it is open-ended and it is widespread in music, arts, language, dance. Every possible aspect is used and usable. It’s trying to tell your own stories and taking hold of your narrative," said Nigerian musician Kezia Jones, who's one of the encyclopedia's contributors.

The "Cultural Encyclopedia Project" is about reclaiming African history, but it's also about expanding knowledge of history and culture within the continent as well. It is such an important thing," says David Adjaye."Because actually East Africans don’t know about West Africans’ culture, and West Africans don’t know about North Africans’ culture, and North Africans don’t know about Southern Africans’ culture — and I am being simplistic here — but it is very hard. So this writing and forming of identity of the continent is really important.”

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Image courtesy of Trap Bob.

Trap Bob Is the 'Proud Habesha' Illustrator Creating Colorful Campaigns for the Digital Age

The DMV-based artist speaks with OkayAfrica about the themes in her work, collaborating with major brands, and how her Ethiopian heritage informs her work.

DMV-based visual artist Tenbeete Solomon also known as Trap Bob is a buzzing illustrator using her knack for colorful animation to convey both the "humor and struggle of everyday life."

The artist, who is also the Creative Director of the creative agency GIRLAAA has been the visual force behind several major online movements. Her works have appeared in campaigns for Giphy, Girls Who Code, Missy Elliott, Elizabeth Warren, Apple, Refinery 29 and Pabst Blue Ribbon (her design was one of the winners of the beer company's annual art can contest and is currently being displayed on millions of cans nationwide). With each striking illustration, the artist brings her skillful use of color and storytelling to the forefront.

Her catalog also includes fun, exuberant graphics that depict celebrities and important moments in Black popular culture. Her "Girls In Power" pays homage to iconic women of color in a range of industries with illustrated portraits. It includes festive portraits of Beyoncé, Oprah, Serena Williams and Michelle Obama to name a few.

Trap Bob is currently embarking on an art tour throughout December, which sees her unveiling murals and recent works for Pabst Blue Ribbon in her hometown of DC and during Art Basel in Miami. You can see her tour dates here.

We caught up with the illustrator via email, to learn more about the themes in her work and how her Ethiopian heritage informs her illustrations. Read it below and see more of Trap Bob's works underneath.

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Headdresses 2 (Collaged) by Helina Metaferia, 2019. Image courtesy of the artist and PRIZM Art Fair.

Here's What to Expect at This Year's PRIZM Art Fair In Miami

The yearly art fair, now showing at Miami Art Week/Art Basel Miami Beach tackles 'Love In the Time of Hysteria,' with works by artists from across the diaspora.

PRIZM Art Fair is back again for its seventh edition, once again highlighting some of the brightest artists from Africa and the diaspora during Miami Art Week/Art Basel Miami Beach.

This year's exhibit, entitled Love in the Time of Hysteria, features several works curated by William Cordova, Ryan Dennis, Naiomy Guerrero, Oshun Layne as well as PRIZM Art Fair's founder and director Mikhaile Solomon. It includes pieces from 42 international artists, hailing from over 13 different countries, including Barbados, Bahamas, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Martinique, Morocco, Nigeria, Egypt, Norway, South Africa, Ghana and the United States.

"Love in the Time of Hysteria illustrates how love, compassion and respect endure in a social milieu riddled with divisive political rhetoric, unprovoked attacks on members of marginalized communities and broad societal malaise as a result of economic inequity," said PRIZM in a press release.

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GuiltyBeatz, Kwesi Arthur & Mr Eazi's "Pilolo" visualizer video (Youtube).

The 20 Best Ghanaian Songs of 2019

Featuring Pappy Kojo, Sarkodie, Amaarae, Kwesi Arthur, Shatta Wale, Efya GuiltyBeatz, Joey B, R2Bees and many more.

2019 was definitely an exciting year for Ghanaian music.

Right from the top of the year, we saw both new and established make their mark with songs that would soundtrack the nation's airwaves, functions, and nights for months to come. In 2019 we got to experience an E.L comeback, Shatta Wale and Beyoncé on the same song, numerous solid Ghana-Naija collaborations, and bop after bop by old and new artists alike.

We also saw the rise of brand new artists, starting from the likes of J.Derobie's wave making debut in January, to Kofi Mole's widespread trap anthem, to Fameye's declaration of brokeness, to the promising future superstar Sam Opoku. As far as projects go, 2019 was a good year for that in the Ghana music space as well. We were blessed with an EP from Sarkodie, an album by the superstar duo R2Bees, talented singer King Promise's debut album, Ko-Jo Cue's stellar debut, and M.anifest's 7-track feel-good EP, among several others.

Ghanaian music has been stepping its game up lately, and there's only one way to go from here. Below, we give you the rundown on the Ghanaian songs that stole ears and hearts and set the pace for the country's sound this year.

Check out the list below. Listen in no particular order.—Nnamdi Okirike

Follow our GHANA WAVE playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

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(Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for AFI)

Cynthia Erivo Earns Golden Globe Nomination for 'Harriet'

Check out the full list of 2020 nominees (and the snubs).

Award-winning actress, Cynthia Erivo has earned a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman in Harriet. She's earned a nomination for Best Original Song for 'Stand Up."

She's nominated in the "Best Performance by an Actress In a Motion Picture—Drama" alongside Charlize Theron, Scarlett Johansson, Renée Zellwegger and Saoirse Ronan.

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