Arts + Culture
Prince Gyasi. Photo by Joshua Kissi.

Visual Artist Prince Gyasi Gathers Ghana's Hiplife Greats in 'A Great Day In Accra' Photo Series

We catch up with the Ghanaian artist on his latest project that recreates the iconic 'A Great Day In Harlem' photo—but with a colorful twist.

If you've come across Prince Gyasi's work on Instagram, you'll know his conceptual images depicting daily life and featuring beautiful faces in Ghana are full of striking, bright colors. His latest project for Apple doesn't fall short of this unforgettable aesthetic.

The Ghanaian photographer cast a wide net to gather the young and old greats of hiplife—a genre birthed in his home country that fuses hip hop, highlife and Ghana's diverse languages—for A Great Day In Accra. In this photo series, Gyasi simply wanted to give hiplife culture and the torchbearers of the sound their long overdue props.


The series was shot on location at Independence Square, where Martin Luther King Jr. watched Kwame Nkrumah declare Ghana's independence in 1957. "By reuniting and photographing both old and new hiplife artists, I'm letting the rest of the world know about the genre's impact in Ghana and beyond," Gyasi said in a statement about A Great Day In Accra. "People need to hear about the culture, the source of our rhythm, our music, what influences our arts. It's our history from our perspective. I want to make sure the new generation doesn't lose their identity or forget about the pioneers who paved the way for them to lift their own voices."

The series was also paired with a mini-doc, directed by Joshua Kissi, featuring Reggie Rockstone, Okyeame Kwame, Abrewa Nana—Ghana's first female hiplife artist, Joey B, E.L and more. Check it out on IGTV here.

Below check out some of his images from his photo series A Great Day In Accra.

Click through to see Prince Gyasi's full series.

We caught up with Prince Gyasi to learn more about A Great Day In Accra. Take a look at our conversation below.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Antoinette Isama for OkayAfrica: What sparked the idea to make a multigenerational moment featuring the greats of hiplife in one image?

Prince Gyasi: I came up with this idea because I felt that hiplife culture isn't represented that much. Highlife music was the basis of what we're hearing. And hiplife music was an attempt for Ghanaians to accept to hip hop culture in Ghana. There was an artist called Reggie Rockstone who came to Ghana from London and he decided to do rap music in his own language—he had an American influence. What he did years ago is what we're hearing now from these new artists in Nigeria, or in Ghana, or these artists that are doing afrotrap which is related to hip hop too. I felt like as an artist I had to let people know the culture through my art. That's the only way that people can be able to relate to the music from Ghana. And I felt that hiplife is not out there that much—it's all afrobeats. I want people to know that rap music in Ghana, and I wanted the young ones to not forget about a where they come from and where the music they hear today started from. These artists paved the way for them to still raise our own voices. I also was inspired by "A Great Day In Harlem," which was shot in 1958 by Art Kane featuring the great jazz artists of that time. I made an attempt to recreate that image in Accra which features all hiplife artists of old and new in one iconic photo.

After watching the video clip on Apple's IGTV, I got a sense that there was a creative synergy between you and Joshua Kissi behind the scenes. What was it like working with him—another artist from the Ghanaian diaspora?

It was great. It was good seeing him do video because we always see his still images. It was a great experience capturing the city, capturing these icons. And the video came out good, so I'm excited.

Was there a particular look or theme you were going for—in terms of the aesthetic of the images you captured—that you wanted to keep in mind while taking photos with the artists?

There's a slight difference between the photographer and a visual artist. A visual artist, like myself, is someone who creates a concept piece. And a photographer is actually a job where you are capturing a moment. Even though I got to capture the moment, which was my first time because I usually do conceptual storytelling, I had to make it look like it was a piece that I already had in mind. The theme was to show a colorful capsule of these artists and their personalities. It's just about enlightening people—even though we're talking about hiplife—that hiplife was colorful. Colors also come with a lot of symbolic meaning. Ghana's also a colorful city, so we had to show that through those photos so people know the difference between each artist.

Even though you consider yourself to be a visual artist, do you still feel the need to have a sense of responsibility to be a documentarian of the culture in a way?

Yes. With the art pieces that I've presented in Seattle, Texas and Art Basel Miami, they're basically a authentic representation on the culture, how it looks like, the truth of what is happening here? Most people know I have a series called Boxed Kids, which tells the story of my organization with the same name. Jamestown is one of the oldest districts in Accra and it's a fishing city which has a generational cycle that goes round and round and never changes because these kids come to life and grow up to be fishermen. My partner and I decided to come up with this organization to stop the practice of putting kids through fishing while they have to be in school.

We saw a kid making a mini-boat from sticks. We thought that was creative, but the kid doesn't know what he was doing—they were not educated. So we wanted to put more life in that. As a visual artist, I have to tell my story the same way because Kwame Nkrumah said, "The new African Renaissance has to tell their story as it is." This is what I'm doing. This is what I'm supposed to do—this what every African is supposed to do. We're supposed to tell our story as it is and not wait for anybody to come tell it for us because nobody else can tell our stories. We can. So I think it's important that I always show the culture through that. Showing a kid who is hopeful for the future and let them know that they will be someone bigger in the future. These are the stories we have to tell people—but not show them in a negative way, but still show them in a colorful way, in a beautiful way, so people don't see Africa as a negative space.

Style

OkayAfrica and B4Bonah Share New 'B4Beginning' Capsule Collection

We've teamed up with the Ghanaian artist ahead of the release of his debut project for some colorful new merch.

Rising Ghanaian star B4Bonah, premieres his catchy debut track "See Body," and to mark the song's release, OkayAfrica has teamed up with the artist to share a new collection of tees, that'll fit nicely into your summer wardrobe.

The artist's latest track is a party jam, that sees him flowing "over an earworm flute melody and afrobeats percussion," using "his rasping flow to celebrate the girl of his dreams." The track was produced by J.Rocs.

B4Bonah - See Body www.youtube.com

In conjunction with the song's release, two new shirt designs are available for preorder at our Okayshop. The vibrant shirts feature the artist's image on colorful blue and green colored blocks, with the words "B4BONAH B4BEGINNING," on the back—referencing the artist's debut mixtape, which is slated for release in late July. The project features Medikal, Mugeez (R2Bees), Amaarae & Ivy Sole.


B4Bonah is an artist to watch, as he continues to make his presence known in the Ghanaian music scene.

Watch the music video for "See Body" above, and head to shop.okayplayer.com now to pick up to pre-order a shirt (or two). You can also preorder B4Bonah's B4beginning mixtape here.

popular

Watch EL, Joey B and Falz' New Video for 'Ehua'

Ghana meets Nigeria in this hilarious new clip.

Ghanaian rappers EL and Joey B connect with Nigeria's Falz for this addictive new collaboration and music video for "Ehua."

"Ehua" is built on energetic afro-electronic beat work produced by EL himself. Joey B handles the hook while Falz kicks things off early with a solid verse.

The eye-catching and hilarious music video for the single, directed by Yaw Skyface, features EL as a policeman, Falz as the 'oga' bossman, and Joey B as a worker for the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG).

Falz takes Joey B's woman by showing off his money and status, so Joey B enlists policeman EL to get back at Falz. The plan backfires however as the officer decides to stick around and party with the rich instead of helping the everyday worker out.

For more GH hits check out our Best Ghanaian Songs of the Month roundups and follow our GHANA WAVE playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Watch the new music video for EL, Joey B and Falz' "Ehua" below.

EL ft Joey B & Falz - Ehua (Official Video) youtu.be


News Brief
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

Nigeria's Super Falcons Were Forced To Threaten a Sit-In Protest Over Unpaid Bonuses After Women's World Cup

After negotiations, the Nigerian Football Federation have agreed to run the players their money.

Nigeria's own Super Falcons had a great run during the Women's World Cup. But instead of the players heading back home or to their respective professional clubs after losing to Germany 3-0, they were forced to strong-arm the Nigerian Football Federation to pay what they're owed.

According to ESPN's initial report over the weekend, the Super Falcons threatened to stage a sit-in protest at their hotel in France until all of their unpaid bonuses dating back to two years ago were paid, along with their World Cup allowances and bonuses.

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