Galle Winston Kofi Dawson was born in the Gold Coast on 8th November 1940 in Takoradi. He is one of thirteen children born to Mrs. Evelyn Esi Dawson and Mr. Wilberforce David Kwami Dawson. In 1956, when Dawson was 16 years old, he enrolled in Mawuli High School in Ho. He was in the same class with Prosper Tawiah and a year behind S. K Amenuke at Mawuli1. Dawson had initially entered Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), then Kumasi College of Technology (KCT)2, in 1960 for a diploma in Civil Engineering. He abandoned this direction in 1962 and joined the teacher-training Diploma in Fine Art (DFA) class.
When the KNUST BA Art Degree begun in 1964 Dawson’s class was the first to transition from DFA into the new degree programme. He was one of three students, with old time classmate Prosper Tawiah and Stanislaus Abaka. E.K.J Tetteh joined them from the Slade School of Fine Art after completing his National Diploma in Design (NDD)— the UK equivalent of the DFA on which the latter was modelled3.
As a young student, Dawson had been mentored by the Ghanaian painter and graphic artist Amon Kotei who worked at the Government Printing Office after his studies at the London College of Printing and Graphic Art in 1952. Kotei combined early modernist influences (a post-Impressionist style and Fauvist palette) to depict subject matter from his cultural environment in his figurative and landscape paintings. Kotei is also famously known for his work as designer of the Ghanaian National Coat of Arms during the transition from Gold Coast Colony to Independent state Ghana.
The conversion from Diploma to Degree in Ghanaian art education was contemporaneous with the UK educational curriculum. A year after he had completed his BA Art Degree, in 1967, Dawson was interested to see for himself what was going on in the European art world at the time. And so he was recommended for an 8-month Technical Award granted by the British Council to visit the Slade School of Fine Art in London. The recommendation came from John Avis— British artist and teacher who succeeded notable South African poet, painter, sculptor and academic Selby Mvusi as principal lecturer of the painting programme at KNUST in 1964.
While at The Slade, Dawson learned, the basics of painting on canvas— sizing, priming with Rabbit-skin glue, using toluene as solvent, etc—in addition to the hardboard painting he had practiced at KNUST. He actively participated in drawing, painting and screen printing sessions— techniques he will return to more often throughout his life. With regard to drawing and painting he especially focused on anatomy, perspective, and live painting. Here he encountered British artist Euan Uglow, a peer of Avis’s. Uglow was one of several prominent artists who would visit and have interactive sessions with students at The Slade. On Sir William Coldstream’s request Dawson stayed four more months in the U.K until he returned in 1968. As a consequence of Coldstream’s mentorship Dawson became learned in the former’s realist idiom of painting. But Coldstream’s influence was to extend beyond individuals such as Avis and Dawson.
Sir William Coldstream attended the Slade School of Fine Art from 1926 to 1929 and was himself mentored by the influential British avant-garde art teacher Henry Tonks4. He was a founding member, in 1938, along with Victor Pasmore and Claude Rogers, of the Euston Road Group of British male artists who were, in the early twentieth century, resisting French avant-garde waves in Europe by adopting a post-impressionist style of painting traditional subjects in a realist manner based on observation; emphasizing social realism and rule of thumb measurement for drawing as well as painting of the human body and still life objects. They belonged to the community of socialist-inclined artists in London who were politically motivated about their work in response to Fascism, global economic depression, and optimism after the Mexican and Russian revolutions. This circle preferred naturalistic painting as a way of making art more accessible to non-specialists and members of the public. The aesthetic prescriptions of this school confined drawing and painting to pictorialist formats that juggled single narrative subject matter from portraiture, landscape, genre painting and still-life. The group dissolved in the war years between 1939 to 1945 with Pasmore, Coldstream and Rogers moving on to become art teachers at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts5. Avis and Uglow had been Coldstream’s protégés, first at Camberwell then at The Slade (where Coldstream moved to when he was appointed Professor of Fine Art in 1947).
Between 1960 and 1970 the National Advisory Council on Art Education (NACAE) — the body set up “to advise the Secretary of State on all aspects of art education in establishments of further education in England and Wales”6— chaired by Coldstream, released four reports detailing educational and examination reforms. Following the release of the First Report in 1960 (coinciding with Dawson’s Freshman year at KCT), the Diploma in Art and Design (Dip. AD) programme was established as a degree equivalent qualification to the NDD; consequently, old Polytechnic Colleges in England and Wales were given University status and allowed to run degree and postgraduate courses. Euro-Western art history (to be taught by art historians) and the Bauhaus-inspired Foundation Programmes were also recommended in the Report.
And so it happened that four years after the release of the First NACAE/Coldstream Report, when the BA Art Degree programme had been instituted at KNUST— with John Avis as the new head lecturer responsible for designing the BA Art (Painting) syllabus under the supervision of Professor Ernest Victor Asihene, Dean of the KNUST College of Art, in collaboration with other Goldsmiths alumni and Ghanaian faculty — the Slade curriculum was adopted and implemented in KNUST7. This meant that a verficationist tradition of painting, embalmed in early Modernist ethos, was to be inaugurated and consequently privileged, for instance, over any form of abstraction, symbolism or fantasy at KNUST in those early years. The Coldstream-inspired curriculum would hence constitute the hegemony in art teaching at KNUST.
Even though Avis left Ghana in 1967 (three years after his posting and a year after the counter-revolutionary coup d’état that toppled Kwame Nkrumah’s regime initiating Ghana’s Second Republic), the legacy of the European tradition he had bequeathed to the College of Art endured unchallenged until the late twentieth century years when growing nationalist movements in the former colonies of Africa, South-East Asia and Latin America conditioned conscious efforts of decolonizing curricula across board. For KNUST it came with post-Independence restructuring including the introduction of Selby Mvusi as one of the first black faculty (after painter Professor E.V Asihene’s appointment as Dean in 1960) to teach in the Fine Art Department in 1962. Coincidentally, this is the same year the Department of Art became a College. Mvusi, during his undergraduate years at the University of Fort Hare in South Africa, aligned with the radical nationalist African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) and other student political groups. Fort Hare was the only university open to Black, Indian and Colored South Africans as well as students from other Anglophone African colonial-administered countries during Apartheid. Mvusi left KNUST two years later to teach at the Fine Arts Department of the University of Nairobi, Kenya, in 1965 until his death in 1967.
Amongst prominent African Modernists affiliated with the College of Art in KNUST are Nigerian modernists Uche Okeke, Ben Enwonwu, Solomon Irein Wangboje and Demas Nwokwo. Okeke is a founding member of the Zaria Art Society (later known as the Zaria Art Rebels), in the late 1950s, along with Bruce Onobrakpeya, Demas Nwokwo and other students during their undergraduate years at the Zaria College of Technology (now Ahmadu Bello University) in northern Nigeria who were consciously contesting the “Eurocentrism” of an NDD-based curriculum”. Okeke implemented his ideology of “Natural Synthesis”8 in the course program at the Fine Arts Department of the University of Nigeria (Nsukka) and initiated postgraduate courses after he joined the faculty in the ‘70s. As Head of Department he introduced new courses and research into Igbo Uli art traditions and graphic systems. Enwonwu, Wangboje and Nwokwo became external assessors and moderators of the KNUST College of Art from the ‘70s into the ‘80s.
During this so-called “Africanization” period, the KNUST art curriculum was reformed in terms of subject matter but the authority of traditional European pictorial genres and formats9 endured as official art. By the neoliberal political economic turn in world affairs in the ‘80s into the ‘90s, early modernist pictorial styles and romanticised African subject matter10 had become the dominant academy aesthetic until 2003.
Gold Coast Education
The Gold Coast was officially annexed as British Crown Colony in 1874— thirty years after the unilateral Bond of 1844 was signed.11 Eighty-three years later the Gold Coast Colony gained Independence to become nation state Ghana. In 1960 Ghana effectuated its First Republic à la Kwame Nkrumah.
Before the1882 British Colonial Ordinance for the Promotion and Assistance of Education was passed by the colonial government, Protestant Christian Missionary Schools dominated education in the Gold Coast with curricula versed in technical and vocational subjects.12 During this century Britain opposed liberal education to vocational education13. As a consequence, the colonial government implemented functionalist curricula, with a crafts focus, in its colonies in Africa and South-East Asia during the Victorian age. This was consistent with British metropolitan educational policy which “had reduced art education to a simple choice between fine art education for the gentry on the one hand [sic], and on the other hand, vocationalised education for working class boys in the Government Schools of design in Somerset House and South Kensington.”14. This was also commensurate with the American Boston Normal programme which prepared trainees for work in industry and manufacture “to churn out bread-winners who could keep the pot boiling”15. In short, this type of education was not for the trainee who had ambitions of professional art practice. Hence, in nineteenth century industrial America, the subject of drawing in public schools was not to “enable the scholar to draw a pretty picture, but [sic] to so train the hand and eye that he may be better fitted to become a bread-winner.”16
Thus, the pith of art education in the Gold Coast 1882 Ordinance— which first introduced “Manual Training for boys”, described as the “proto-art curriculum” (seid’ou, 2014a: p. 010) for schools in pre-Independence Ghana— would take after these antecedents. The Ordinance could not be realized in the given year for reasons offered by the then Inspector of Schools, Rev. M. Sunter, as “unworkable and ridiculously complicated”17, It was not until five years later, in 1887, that a more workable Educational Code was enacted institutionalizing a successor to the ‘Manual Training for boys’ namely ‘Hand and Eye Training’18. The Hand and Eye curriculum — described by George A. Stevens as the “elemental mechanics of European drawing, painting and handicraft [light and shade, mixing of colors, accurate observation and perspective]”19— was implemented in the Gold Coast in 1909 through the Government Training College in Accra as a two-year teacher training art subject20 which employed gridded lines, divided squares and angles to achieve the “objective of precise technical or contour drawing”.21
Autistically, this standardized draughtsmanship and crafts focus became the tradition of arts curricula even after the Government Training College was moved to Achimota as the Prince of Wales College in 1927 (later to become the Achimota College)— founded by the then Gold Coast Governor Sir Gordon Guggisberg, Rev. A. G. Fraser, as Principal, and Dr. Kwegyir Aggrey, as Vice Principal. Achimota College — constituted of a secondary school and Teacher Training College — is the nucleus which later splinters into KCT which homed the Teacher Training College and School of Art after it had been transferred to Kumasi from Accra in 1952. The Art School remained in Kumasi to become what is currently the College of Art. In 1958 the Teacher Training College moved to Winneba as the Specialist Training College (what is now University of Education in Winneba)22.
It is easy to see how this conservatism in metropolitan Britain could have been “anachronistic” to happenings elsewhere in Europe between late nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries when developments in art had produced experimental waves of early Modernist avant-gardists who had taken advantage of technological advancements of the time to transcend mechanistic methods of making and thinking about art (from the Impressionists who had resorted to outdoor painting, optimizing mobility with the invention and availability of oil paint in tubes, to the historical avant-garde (Constructivists, Dadaists, et al.) who were contesting authorship, originality and commodification in art, as well as the Bauhaus school which had opened up new questions into the relations between design, craftsmanship and fine art, and so forth). High Modernism had also initiated its own medium-specific theories for art elsewhere in Europe and North America.
These events notwithstanding, the earliest intellectual resistance to Hand and Eye work came in the period between the World Wars when Stevens, then a young graduate of The Slade School, became the first art master of the Government Training College and Achimota College (from 1925 to 1929). He mentored Herbert Vladimir Meyerowitz, Margaret Trowell and Kenneth Murray, who were colonial teachers in Ghana, Uganda and Nigeria respectively. Stevens also taught art to Kwame Nkrumah (who would later become Ghana’s first president) at Achimota. Stevens had himself been tutored by Tonks and formalist critic/artist Roger Fry23. He was influenced by Fry’s primitivist formalism in his appreciation of African art and severely critiqued the 1887 Educational Code as one “drawn up as if there were no indigenous arts in the country at all, whereas these [sic] were in a much more flourishing condition than they are today”24. Stevens had also taught his students African Art History and conducted research in the native arts of West Africa.25
His legacy of undermining the essence of a mechanized, gender-specific “adaptive” colonial art education and instituting “a kind of multiculturalist art curriculum which carried Nationalist incentive for the Gold Coast African” (seid’ou, 2014b) was carried on further by his successor, sculptor and craftsman Herbert Vladimir Meyerowitz, who introduced the Art and Crafts Specialist Certificate (ACSC) course for trainee art teachers as part of the Specialist Programme in 1937 at Achimota. Meyerowitz taught prominent artists including Dawson’s mentor Amon Kotei, E. V. Asihene, Kofi Antubam, and John Christopher Osei Okyere at Achimota.
But however subversive their intentions may have been, Stevens, like Meyerowitz, were unable to wrest their politics from false identitarian myths affirming the racist Eurocentric dualism of “[Western] civilization versus [African] primitive culture” symptomatic of Evolutionist anthropological theories of the time which takes the ‘European destiny’ of all humankind for granted. 26
The Years After 2003…
Barrelling down since the late nineteenth century, this intellectual legacy had plagued the College of Art in KNUST until what has been described as a “silent revolution” began to materialize at the dawn of the millennium when a collective of young lecturers – inspired by Dr. kąrî’kạchä seid’ou’s “Emancipatory Art Teaching” project27– were able to successfully expand the curriculum from its retinal, quasi-hierarchy of genres, medium-specific stranglehold to implement emancipatory ideas for artistic practice conditioned on radical indifference (to genres, materials, subject matter, processes, etc). Graduates thus develop political and material sensitivity to their practices.28 Instead of uniformly following a ‘tradition’, each artist is challenged to develop an independent practice. In this School art is paradoxically defined as beginning from a multiplicity and emanating from a void. According to this new logic, its content can be regenerated in an egalitarian system for the art student or exhibiting artist. The curriculum has thus been updated to maintain cognizance of real-time developments in the art world and now accommodates hitherto stigmatized disciplines such as time-based media, new materiality, curating, text, performance, post-humanist media, robotics, site- and context-specific practices, among others.
blaxTARLINES KUMASI was established as the Project Space for Contemporary Art based at the Department of Painting and Sculpture at KNUST in 2015. This was part of the Department’s long-term plans of sustaining an infrastructure of artistic and curatorial practice in Ghana. The unfortunate phenomenon of graduates of the college diverting into non-art related fields after completion of their programmes of study needed to be strategically addressed. blaxTARLINES KUMASI’s end of year exhibitions in Kumasi and Accra29, telling the story of Ghanaian art and outdooring the level of criticality amongst its practitioners, have gained momentum since 2014 and have honored the lifework of Pan-africanist Dr. Kwame Nkrumah (the Gown must go to Town, 2015), author Ama Ata Aidoo, Camerounian conceptual artist Goddy Leye (Cornfields in Accra, 2016), artists/educators Professor Ablade Glover, Dr. S. K Amenuke, artist G.W.K Dawson, and Iranian filmmaker/poet Abbas Kiarostami (Orderly Disorderly, 2017). The latter exhibition featured Dawson’s impeccably handwritten BA thesis (1966), titled Traditional Adornment of the Anglos, paintings and drawings he had made from The Slade circa 1977-78 and from later years.
According to Dawson, when he returned from London in 1968 he was unsure whether to teach art in KNUST or to find work elsewhere. Deciding to fulfill the mandatory service work expected from beneficiaries of government scholarships, he sent an application to the Civil Service Commission. He got a job and was posted to the Information Services Department (ISD) where he worked for more than 30 years until retirement in 2000. At ISD, Dawson was in the Exhibitions and Display Unit. As such, he was well informed and aware of art events happening around the country. During his civil service he made it a point to show in exhibitions every year at various venues in Accra including the Goethe-Institut, Arts Center, and Baiden Powell Memorial Hall. He participated, for instance, in the annual exhibitions organized by Professor Ablade Glover30, at the Arts Center in Accra. Dawson’s exceptional skill in drawing and painting – acquired through the ‘arts and crafts’ ethos of the colonial “adaptive” education ossified in the specialist training at KNUST (with lineage from Achimota School) – combined with a vibrant post-impressionist palette is evident in his earlier drawings, paintings and prints as his influences are traced from Amon Kotei to the [post]Euston Road School. However, in his later works, Dawson begins to expand his oeuvre, evolving into an experimental approach to material and form, shifting his subject matter from realist iconography to include fantastical and fictional content. He has always harbored an undeveloped interest in film while occasionally coming to terms with objecthood by making installations. Till today his oeuvre spans silkscreen printing, pen and ink drawing, acrylic painting, oil painting, collage, sculpture and installation.
It is within this tempestuous sequence of cultural, geopolitical, social and intellectual events that G.W.K Dawson’s work simultaneously finds relevance, negotiates and sustains its place in the history of modernist art in Ghana. His is a legacy that consciously bridges the gap between his generation and emergent practices of today.
*A version of this text will be published in Galle Winston Kofi Dawson: In Pursuit of Something ‘Beautiful’… perhaps (15th March – 16th August, 2019) exhibition catalog as part of G.W.K Dawson’s ongoing solo exhibition at Savanna Center for Contemporary Art (SCCA) in Tamale, Ghana.
Danquah, J.B. 1957. The Historical Significance of the Bond of 1844. Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana. 3(1). 3-29. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41405698.
Oguibe O. 2004. The Culture Game. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, London.
seid’ou, k. 2006. Theoretical Foundations of the KNUST Painting Programme: A Philosophical inquiry and its contextual relevance in Ghanaian Culture [Unpublished PhD Thesis]. Kumasi: KNUST.
seid’ou k. 2014a. Gold Coast Hand and Eye Work: A Genealogical History. Global Advanced Research Journal of History. Political Science and International Relations ISSN: 2315-506X Vol. 3(1) pp. 008-016.
seid’ou k. 2014b. Adaptive Art Education in Achimota College; G. A. Stevens, H. V. Meyerowitz and Colonial False Dichotomies. CASS Journal of Art and Humanities, 3 (1), 1-28.
seid’ou k. et al. 2015. Silent Ruptures, Emergent Art of the KNUST College of Art. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science. Vol. 5. No. 10: October 2015.
Stevens G. A. (1930). The Future of African Art. With Special Reference to Problems Arising in Gold Coast Colony. Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, 3(2), 150-160. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1155795.
- Both of whom later became prominent lecturers at the Department of Painting and Sculpture at KNUST.
- KCT was established in 1951 but the first students arrived there a year later. It became KNUST in 1961.
- The NDD curriculum in metropolitan Britain formulated courses based on “Talent”, “Métier” (craft) and “Imitation”. Zaria College of Technology (now Ahmadu Bello University) and KCT were examples of Colonial Colleges of Arts, Science and Technology (COCAST) in the 1950s. Their curricular were based on the NDD with subjects defined according to “European academy craft” such as modeling, life painting, still life, and landscape. See seid’ou et al (2015), p. 133 and p. 136 [note i]. For a deeper analysis of art education since pre-independence Ghana see seid’ou, (2006).
- Henry Tonks was a British surgeon and artist who significantly influenced a generation of British artists at The Slade School of Fine Art. In 1892, when Frederick Brown was appointed Slade Professor in succession to Alphonse Legros, he invited Tonks to become his assistant. Tonks became Professor at The Slade from 1918 to 1930. There he taught David Bomberg, Wyndham Lewis, Spencer Gore, G. A Stevens and William Coldstream. He was one of the first British artists influenced by French Impressionists.
- Currently a constituent college of the University of Arts London (UAL), it is known as Camberwell College of Arts.
- Op. cit. seid’ou, 2006, p. 142.
- See ibid. for sei’dou’s analysis of “analogous practices and concepts” in the Kumasi College of Art with the NACAE reports of 1960, 1962, 1964 and the Report of the joint committee with the National Council for Diplomas in Art and Design (NCDAD) in 1970, also known as the Second Coldstream Report.
- Olu Oguibe, in reference to the Zaria Art Society manifesto authored by Uche Okeke, notes that “natural synthesis” permitted Nigerian artists “to research and incorporate into their work formal and symbolic elements from within their indigenous art traditions while retaining whatever is useful from the Western tradition. This was very much in line with the search for a new cultural identity in the immediate postcolony and would eventually form the ideological and formal bases of modern Nigerian art from the 1960s onward”. See Oguibe (2004), p. 184. Also go to note 25 to see how homologous Natural Synthesis is to the ideas of the nativist colonial art master G. A. Stevens.
- See Department of Painting & Sculpture, KNUST. About Us. Retrieved on 16th July 2017 from https://painting.knust.edu.gh/about.
- Op. cit., seid’ou et al, 2015, p.134.
- The Bond of 1844 was signed on 6th March between nine Fante, Denkyira and Assin Chiefs and Lieutenant Governor H. W. Hill, who acted as witness on behalf of Queen Victoria, at the Palaver Hall of the Cape Coast Castle. For a legalistic analysis of the Bond of 1844 see Danquah (1957). Military confrontations between Ashanti and Fante states contributed significantly to British influence on the Coast during this time. The Bond was crucial for this annexation thirty years hence since, according to Dr. J. B Danquah, it was the first step in the decision by the British House of Commons, in 1842, to get the Chiefs of an independent people in the Gold Coast to voluntarily cede judicial powers “under a Bond to the British, to justify the exercise of power by the British Governor beyond the forts and settlements” (Danquah: 1957, pp. 4) giving the British special right to “mould Gold Coast customary laws to the general principles of English Law.” (Danquah: 1957, pp. 22). After conquering the Ashanti in the war of 1873-74, the British had gained significant power and control of local resources that they abandoned prudent policies and proceeded to invoke a “Proclamation emanating from the sole authority of the Queen” declaring the Gold Coast as its Colony. The Bond became a necessary legally binding document for two reasons: Firstly, when the British Settlements Act of 11th April 1843 had empowered the Queen in Council to make laws and constitute courts for the governance of Her Settlements on the Coast of Africa and the Falkland Islands. And secondly, when the British Parliament, by the stipulations of the Foreign Jurisdiction Act of 24th August 1843, had authorized that the power obtained by the Crown in countries outside Her dominions “should be held on the same terms as Her authority in the Crown Colonies, but that any courts authorized to exercise such powers should procure evidence of such power by application to the Secretary of State”. (Danquah: 1957, pp. 6). But the Secretary of State had no way of proving with evidence its exercise of sole authority in Gold Coast courts, except if the sovereign rulers of its territories freely bound themselves by means of a distinct agreement to cede juridical powers to the Queen’s judicial officers in its territory, hence the Bond.
- By 1890, Protestant schools accounted for 72% of total student population in the Gold Coast while Catholic schools approximately accounted for 9%. See seid’ou,(2014a), p. 009 and 016 [note 2].
- According to seid’ou, “it was typical in 19th century Gold Coast colonial education policy to oppose liberal (literary or so-called bookish) education with vocational (technical or industrial) education”. See seid’ou (2014b), p. 2.
- Op. cit. seid’ou (2014a), p. 011.
- Ibid. p. 016 [note 5].
- seid’ou describes Hand and Eye as a generic term for “free hand drawing and manual training targeted at the elementary education of working class children. In European and American literature, “Hand and Eye” is a commonwealth of craft-based programmes variously referred to as Slojd, Husflid (Scandinavian), Travail Manuel (French), Manual Training (English), Arbeitunterricht, Gewerbeschule or Handfertigkeitsunterricht (German). It takes its theory from 19th century child-centered education schemes of Pestalozzi and Froebel. In its teacher training version, it was a drawing and craft instruction for the generalist teacher of children, not a course for a specialist artist. As a system of training it was underpinned by the objective of precise technical or contour drawing. […] In its 19th century dogmatic form, governments invested “hand and eye skill” in the mechanical, manual and ornamental arts with overt instrumental and remunerative value in socio-economic and educational policy. This was especially intended to aid the growth of industry and manufacture and, in the bourgeois formulation of working class aspirations, to churn out bread-winners who could keep the pot boiling.” Ibid. pp. 011.
- As quoted by seid’ou. Ibid pp. 010.
- Ibid. pp. 010.
- Refer to note 18.
- Op. cit., seid’ou (2014b), p. 23.
- Roger Fry was a member of the Bloomsbury circle of left-wing artists in London from 1910 into the 1930s. It was one of the few groups open to women membership in early twentieth century Britain. The group included economic theorist John Keynes, novelist Virginia Woolf, art critic Clive Bell, among others. Fry had been influenced by Bell’s “Significant Form” which elevated form over content for any work of art. “Negro Sculpture” is one of many essays Fry published (in his book Vision And Design, 1920) where he made primitivist arguments in defense of African sculpture. Fry believes that art appreciation should begin with a sensibility to form as opposed to an inclination to praise art of high culture. He also argues that an African sculpture or a Chinese vase is just as deserving of study as a Greek sculpture. In 1910, he organized the watershed exhibition “Manet and the Post-Impressionists” featuring Édouard Manet, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse and Vincent Van-Gogh. He followed it up in 1912 with the “Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition”. These exhibitions met staunch criticism at first but later became critically acclaimed. For many Londoners, it was the first time seeing such avant-garde French art. The exhibitions influenced artists like David Bomberg. Fry is noted to have coined the term “Post-Impressionists”.
- See Stevens (1930), p. 150.
- “Stevens was an early advocate of a colonial variant of what came to be known in 1950s Zaria as Natural Synthesis which canonized Uli and other African traditions. He conducted research about local “crafts”, insisted that each student must study at least one local “craft” from their region, and he even used African artefacts as examples in his classes”. Op. cit., seid’ou et al, (2015), p. 136; op. cit., seid’ou (2014b), p. 12.
- For an in-depth analysis of the strengths and contradictions of the Stevens-Meyerowitz era see op. cit., seid’ou (2014b). Meyerowitz invited “native” craftsmen, such as Osei Bonsu, Asantehene’s carver, to teach in the Achimota Art Department. seid’ou also argues that the ethos of Meyerowitz’s style negre canon has remained till today in the Senior High School Picture Making course examination format in ibid., p.21.
- kąrî’kạchä seid’ou is a poet, artist, mathematician and philosopher who joined the faculty at the Department of Painting and Sculpture in 2003. On his appointment in 2003, he initiated his Emancipatory Art Teaching pedagogic project which introduced “Interactive Series” [seid,ou, 2006], a seminar programme in Kumasi to host contemporary artists and art professionals for talks, workshops, exhibitions, overviews and critique sessions. He also converted his Drawing Class into a curatorial project of guerrilla exhibitions on campus and in the city of Kumasi. Campus and city alike came alive with site-specific exhibitions with critiques and overviews each year. In the mid-2000s, seid’ou found kinship in younger faculty such as Kwaku Boafo Kissiedu (Castro), George Buma Ampratwum and Dr. Edwin Bodjawah, amongst others, who through their work and networks, joined forces to sustain the changes in the ethos of the art curriculum at KNUST. Prior to this, a “small revolution in art and practice” was instigated in the last decade of the twentieth century by a pioneer group of M.F.A students who actively challenged official conventions of art at the KNUST Department of Painting and Sculpture between 1993 and 1996. These students include seid’ou himself, Kwamivi Zewuze Adzraku, Emmanuel Vincent Essel (Papa Essel), Caterina Niklaus. Agyeman Ossei (Dota), and Atta Kwami. It is however recorded that after this class graduated censorship tamed any kind of dissent at the Department. Op. cit., seid’ou et al, 2015, p. 134.
- For a summary narrative of this history see ibid. Also see Ohene-Ayeh Kwasi. 2019. On Universality and Curating in the Void, retrieved from https://iubeezy.wordpress.com/2019/01/20/on-universality-and-curating-in-the-void/ [Accessed on 24th February, 2019].
- The end of year exhibitions have been in existence since 2014 and have featured final year students of the graduating class with Teaching Assistants, alumni, lecturers and [international] guest artists. In 2015 “the Gown must go to Town” also celebrated a double-achievement of two KNUST alumni, Ibrahim Mahama (M.F.A 2014) and El Anatsui (1969), at the Venice Biennale dubbed All the World’s Futures, curated by Okwui Enwezor. Mahama was the youngest artist to participate in the Biennale while Anatsui was honored with the Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Award.
- Professor Ablade Glover is a Ghanaian educator and modernist painter. He was Professor and Head of the Department of Art Education and Dean of the College of Art at KNUST until 1994. He expediently renders movement, dynamism, color, mood/spirit of crowd scenes and the “faceless masses” (at marketscapes, townscapes, celebrations, trotro stations, forestscapes, beachscapes, and so on) by manipulating oil paint on canvas with a palette knife. For Glover, the materiality of the pigment also becomes part of what constitutes the picture on canvas.