By Jason Kwame
There’s a creative renaissance going on in Ghana. Young and upcoming innovators – from photographers, to directors & stylists – are banding together, collectively using all they have and what they know to push together. The result? A rising industry – or an awakened African giant in the words of Burna Boy – with many facets, being built to stand on its own. It’s a wave that’s slowly becoming the face of black art in this generation.
Musicians can see what’s going on, and are tapping into this creativity. Take Beyonce’s visual album and film Black is King enlisting the help of Ghanaian designers, dancers and producers to best capture the vibrant power and ingenuity of Africa. Or rising star M1llionz recently reaching GH soil and teaming up with female director Scilla Owusu and photographer Danny Wonders to capture the pulse of the streets and its people.
It’s no surprise, then, that Ghana was the perfect location and creative hub for award-winning producer Jae 5’s new video for Dimensions, featuring Rema and Skepta. Speaking with the born and bred creatives involved, it was inspiring to see how young everyone on the team was – calling the shots, bringing in their own people, putting their fellow peers on. It was a solid network of talent.
“The concept behind the video […] was to show Ghana’s rich traditions and culture, with the new generation expressing themselves. Being in Ghana [back and forth] for quite a few years, I’ve been creating content to shine a light on the country”, British-Ghanaian director Ebenza Blanche told me, when we discussed his intentions for the visuals.
Mission accomplished then, as the video for the smooth, rhythmic tune does exactly that. It goes straight into Ghana’s abundant history as the Gold Coast, with a calm shot of a hand, floating above water, adorned with gold jewelry shaped in Akan/Ashanti traditional storytelling symbols. It’s followed by Rema and his signature voice – full of melodic trills, runs and riffs. He kneels down alongside other men, synchronised in full red fits, even down to his durag and traditional-print shirt.
Perhaps, to the imaginative viewer, it’s a symbol of bloodline and unity. That assumption makes more sense when the scene is followed by a group of black women gathered in a circle, wearing pure white gowns. Recurring scenes of Skepta with the ladies, and then with male “elders” in traditional cloth wrapped over one shoulder – known as ntoma – also add another layer to the message of togetherness in his lyrics.
Then there’s the scenes representing the new gen of Ghana’s style. It’s a style that doesn’t hold back on expression, using an array of patterns, textile techniques and materials. Vibrant colours, blends of sportswear and smart casual pieces – with a few Daily Paper designs included here and there – capture the experimental taste that drives this new creativity coming from West Africa.
Jason Asiedu – designer of Jermaine Bleu and the stylist for the shoot – gave me a run down of his inspirations. He explained how he’s literally growing with the industry, having designed for six years and only styled for a year:
“I was really looking for [an approach] that would set me apart from everyone else’s work. The concept was focused on fun looks, that are true to the Ghana aesthetic…telling the Ghanaian story in a different way. We wanted to feature designers based here and overseas…like myself, Larry Jay, Mimi Poliana – based in the UK, and [of course] Daily Paper. It was super dope to be on conference calls with the art director Coffee and director literally picking out the clothes for every scene. We had a clear idea of what we were going for”
It’s clear the team made it a point to ensure home-grown & niche Ghanaian brands were given the opportunity to shine. If you look closely enough, you’ll see cameos of collaborative designs by Blank Canvas Studio and HS Vintage. As art plays a big part especially in West African life, Blank Canvas takes that and dedicates itself to art focused streetwear, whilst HS Vintage has introduced the youth in Ghana to vintage tees from all genres, grails and the growing influence of archive fashion. Here’s what the head honcho at HS Vintage Eli Smith had to say:
“The pieces [featured] combine B|C’s signature fabric painting techniques with HS Vintage streetwear pieces serving as the canvas. Each piece is 1 of 1 so the buyer can confidently say they own the only piece of its kind in the world.”
He gave me an insight into how tight-knit, collaborative and spontaneous the Ghanaian scene is, when he explained how he received the call up at the last minute to contribute to the video shoot:
“The collab was already in the works as of December when Osei Kay (Blank Canvas) and I were contacted by the stylist Jason, saying he was doing a video shoot and needed ‘popping’ clothes within the next hour to style the models. Luckily enough, I (HS Vintage) dropped off some merch for B|C to work on, and a bunch of our bucket hats were quickly painted and dried with a blow dryer – some made it on set still wet!…the rest is history.”
Eli’s right. With videos like Dimensions, history is being made, as we see the manifestation of Ghanaian ideas on screen more often. This is just the beginning. Speaking to those involved in the creative process and behind the scenes, revealed a direct mirror image of the refreshing sense of solidarity portrayed throughout the video – from the actors to the artist trio.
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