Ghana’s moveable museum goes on the road. Photograph: Ofoe Amegavie/ANO
Kiosk-sized cultural exhibition will travel across the country’s 10 regions in December
An innovative project in Ghana aims to make moveable museums available nationwide by taking a small kiosk-sized gallery on the road to showcase artworks and cultural artefacts.
The “kiosk museum” is the brainchild of Nana Oforiatta Ayim, a writer and film-maker, and founder of ANO, a non-profit art space in Accra. She decided to make use of an ubiquitous feature of west African architecture: the semi-legal containers present on every street corner, usually used by mechanics, hairdressers or stores selling food and supplies.
Ayim collaborated with DK Osseo-Asare, an architect who has spent more than a decade researching kiosk culture and designing units in Ghana and Nigeria. He said official government policy was to “excise the informal from the city”, referring to the state’s disdain for the semi-legal structures, which have been flattened and torn down in some areas.
Latifah Idriss, an Accra-based architect who has worked with Ayim to further develop the structures, said kiosks were “not considered as proper” by the government because “in a country that lacks welfare, they manifest as the architecture of poverty”.
Ayim’s project celebrates the informal structures. In December, the curator will begin a mammoth journey with the kiosk, starting in the capital, Accra, and travelling across Ghana’s 10 regions.
Ayim said she started to reflect on the museum model in Africa while working at the British Museum. Struck by how differently African objects were encountered in display cabinets in the UK with how they were actively used in festivals back home, she began to think about how material culture could be preserved and presented in a way that was more in keeping with local traditions.
The “white cube” gallery, an idea developed in the west, doesn’t make sense in Ghana, she said, where art plays a different role in society. “I think it’s important to ask at every stage, how suitable is this model for the context we inhabit? Especially [as we are] coming out of the post-colonial moment – a moment in which we were defining ourselves largely based on a western model.”
Nana Nyarko Boateng, who visited the kiosk museum at Chale Wote street art festival this year, said she thought using something so familiar “as a tool for learning and engendering discussions about ourselves is just brilliant and absolutely pertinent”.
“The majority of Ghanaians get their bread and milk and sugar from kiosks, so nobody gets intimidated about entering them,” she said.
Ayim said with each new location the exhibition inside the kiosk changes. “Film and photographs, documents, old letters – we ask people to bring things in and then we display them in the kiosk museum to document, and for [other] people to interact with,” she explained.
During the Chale Wote festival in Jamestown, the kiosk museum presented photographs by Ofoe Amegavie alongside other artefacts. Visitors were encouraged to interact with the objects and share their stories. With its doors open to the street, the small booth – only two metres by three metres (8ft by 10ft) – welcomed thousands of visitors.
It’s early days for the kiosk museum, as Ayim and her team figure out how to make the infrastructure sustainable. “Can we create an alternative based on a different value system, a different way of growing. I think we can, and that’s exciting,” Ayim said.