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Ghanaian artist Nii Amasah Abifao has over the past few years been performing in various parts of Accra with diverse messages that comment on life, death, pain, sanitation, health and peace

Photographer: Nii Tackie Yarboi

In recent times, the push for performance art has naturally extended to artists whose distinctiveness is somehow excluded from the traditions championed by the art world and art history. Indeed, it’s always been important to drive and generate conversations that are not within the mainstream.

Although funerals in Ghana are solemn, respectful and dignified, they are also characterized by church services and complicated rituals. Undeniably, wild parties and processions amidst the chanting of dirges and frenetic drumming also portray these memorials.

In a performance titled “Remember Death”, the artist who was clad in red-stripped batakari, jeans shorts, Zoom Lion branded wellington boots and a powdered face, commandeered a tricycle that has been remodelled into a hearse, which served as an integral part of his performance.

With a retinue of mourners and musicians – one of them clad in a red flowing gown, the hearse passed through the popular Accra neighbourhood of Osu onward to the cemetery, which is easily one of the oldest in the city of Accra.

With a Bible in hand, Abifao together with the procession continued on the streets as bewildered onlookers watched in awe. Severally and jointly, they reminded pedestrians and motorists of the mortality of humans and the stress, pain, agony and financial challenges that come with the loss of relatives or friends.

On arrival at the cemetery, the artist carried the coffin on his head and proceeded to the grave while exhibiting intense emotion and apprehension. On the contrary, the mourners follow silently in tow as they reach the final moments of bidding farewell to the “deceased”.

After the burial, a rather distract Abifao reads a Bible on one of the tombstones and is comforted by a priest with tears flowing without ceasing as the pain and agony of losing a loved one become increasingly apparent.

John Owoo was educated at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (Accra) and the Indian Institute of Mass Communications (New Delhi), Owoo has been working as a freelance cultural journalist since 1997. His deep knowledge and interest in the arts have enabled him to make significant contributions to newspapers, magazines, catalogues and websites in several parts of the world. Owoo speaks fluent French and German.

Originally published on Arts Ghana.

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