Ghanaian movie posters have been on the Western pop culture radar for quite a while. They’ve been collected in several handsome coffee table books over the past decade or so, and the internet seems to rediscover them every couple years. But for the unitiated: hand-painted movie posters from Ghana are truly bonkers works of outsider art, an organic result of villages with no electricity in rural West Africa gathering at mobile "video clubs" to watch VHS tapes on an A/V setup powered by a gas generator. As these clubs grew, the grassroots entrepreneurs in charge of them turned to advertising to attract their crowds. The problem? No access to modern printing materials. The other problem? The artists recruited to create these movie posters had in most cases never seen the films. The ensuing posters are something special indeed. Here are just a couple of samples.
Consisting largely of 80s/90s B-action films (JCVD and Steven Seagal turn up frequently) and more regionally made horror films, the posters are fascinating distillations of expectation – unfettered by the experience of actually seeing the film, the artists fill in the blanks with their often fevered imaginations of what the movie might be, and the posters take on the quality of a child’s daydream or nightmare.
Though the period in which these posters were used for their intended purpose was relatively brief, there seems to be an endless supply of these paintings for sale online; many are now available on Ebay or Amazon, and the original artists are today using the popularity of their work to go full-time with commissions! What a world. Even better, someone has finally curated them into a proper art exhibit: Working with Chicago’s Deadly Prey Gallery, Philly’s own PhilaMOCA (The Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art) will be hosting an impressive exhibit of Ghanaian movie poster art. The exhbit opens on April 6th from 6-9PM, and will be on display for the duration of the Cinedelphia Film Fest (April 7th to 23rd).
To be clear: not all the images I'm sharing in here are specifically from this exhibit; I'm not sure exactly what paintings will be featured. That's why I'm going; I can’t wait to see this phenomenon from across the world in person.