Film

Akosua Adoma Owusu's Campaign To Transform Accra's Rex Cinema

African academy award winning filmmaker Akosua Adoma Owusu's campaign to turn the Rex Cinema, Accra into an alternative art space


2013 has been a stellar year for Akosua Adoma Owusu. She recently had not one but four of her films selected for the Whitney Museum's permanent collection, films which have spent the year on show at a number of major international film festivals. Earlier this year her short film Kwaku Ananse — which recasts the Ananse figure to capture the ambivalence of return, and diasporan doubleness — won Best Short Film at the Africa Movie Academy Awards. Her latest project "Damn the Man, Save the Rex" is a campaign to transform Accra's REX Cinema into an alternative space for the creative arts including, but not exclusive to, film.

Although Shirley Frimpong-Manso and other major players have put contemporary Ghanaian film on movie-map, the industry's viral forms of distribution are not exactly cinema-friendly. Whether you watch movies on the Intercity STC, on your laptop, in the market, or in your living room, Africa's video industry is sometimes understood as signaling the obsolescence of the cinema house. It took a win at Cannes to persuade Chadian director Mahamet Saleh Haroun's (A Screaming Man; Gris Gris) government to allocate $1 million to restore the capital's formerly-dilapidated Normandie cinema. Major awards aside, t's unlikely that those in charge of government coffers will be making it rain on the continent's cinemas, unless, like Chad, they see potential to "rebrand" the country as the home of African-art cinema.

What's interesting about Owusu's project is that she does not plan to dedicate the renovated REX to Hollywood blockbusters, nor is she seeking help from Ghana's government. Instead she's turned to crowdfunding to make the REX a Ghanaian arts hub for artists working across media, across the nation, the continent, and the diaspora. The aim, as expressed in the video below, is to foster a collaborative space, moving away from the auteur/audience separation which has made the cinema an unnatural successor of West African travelling theatre traditions, in which audiences are decidedly more interactive. Owusu's vision for the REX answers a genuine need for spaces where artists can exhibit, workshop and share their work - a vital part of any creative infrastructure. Not just a flash in the plan, Owusu told Zachary Rosen how she plans to make the project sustainable.

With just ten days left to raise just under $4000, Owusu is well on her way to procuring a projector for the space and making it visitor-friendly. If she does, it will mean a little less "sitting in roundtable discussions" postulating about "the future of African cinema but not really doing."  To learn more visit the Kickstarter page,  donate, and spread the word.

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Listen to 10 Great Songs From Johnny Clegg

Here are some of the best songs to remember South Africa's son of the soil.

Yesterday, it was confirmed that South African musician, Johnny Clegg, passed away after a long battle with cancer.

Understandably, heartfelt tributes have been pouring in ever since. Long before it was cool (or even legal) to be in close proximity to blackness and anything attached to it in South Africa, Clegg, a white man, was doing just that. That is exactly why he was given the endearing title of South Africa's "son of the soil."

Growing up during Apartheid, Clegg was taught how to speak the Zulu language by a domestic worker named Charlie Mzila. In his teenage years, his appreciation for the Zulu culture continued and he soon learnt the traditional dance styles known as isishameni and also learnt how to play the Maskandi guitar. Clegg's music was a beacon of light during a very dark time in South Africa's history and his songs about Nelson Mandela (at a time where songs were banned for merely mentioning the name of the late statesman and other key struggle activists) brought the country together.

It is irrefutable that a music giant has fallen. However, Clegg leaves behind a wealth of music featuring other great South African artists and groups such as Zakwe, Brenda Fassie, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and Juluka/Suvuka, among several others. His music undeniably brought South Africans and people all around the world together.

We've picked ten of our favorite songs from the late musician's discography in honor of a life that was lived to the fullest.

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Stonebwoy in "Tuff Seed"

The 12 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Stonebwoy, Mahmoud Ahmed, Tiwa Savage x Zlatan, Africa Express, Juls x Mr Eazi and more.

Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our Best Music of the Week column.

Here's our round up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks, which you can also check out in our Songs You Need to Hear This Week playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Follow our SONGS YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS WEEK playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Check out all of OkayAfrica's new playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Beyoncé Wore These 2 African Designers in Her Music Video for 'Spirit'

Queen Bey continues to include and give a nod to African talent in her visuals.

As we draw even closer to Disney's The Lion King opening in theaters this week, Beyoncé continues to lead the way with her new music video for "Spirit"—the first single off of the film's album she produced and curated, The Lion King: The Gift.

Shot in the Havasu Falls in Arizona's Grand Canyon, Beyoncé and her legion of beautiful dancers are one with nature and its various elements as she beckons us to be brave and hear the calling of spirit. As we noted when she announced the album, the track opens with a call and response in Swahili that translates to "Long live the king": Uishi kwa mda mrefu mfalme—uishi kwa.

Keeping our eyes peeled for African influences in the music video, it's evident that is seen in the choreography. We even spotted our extended fam with the afrobeats moves—the AVO Boys: Stephen Ojo and Caleb Bonney—as two of her dancers in the video.

Beyoncé continues to also give a nod to African talent through the looks she donned in "Spirit" styled by her mainstay, Zerina Akers.

Take a look at the two African designers she wore in the video below.

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