Movie Mojo: Hand-Painted Posters from Ghana
Primitive has amassed an extraordinary collection of luridly colorful, hand-painted movie posters from the West African country of Ghana. A disappearing art form, the Primitive collection is now the subject of an exhibition at The Chicago Cultural Center entitled “Movie Mojo: Hand Painted Posters from Ghana".
The exhibition runs from April 29th - September 4, 2011.
At the same time, Primitive will be exhibiting additional posters from its collection in the 4th floor exhibition space at the gallery. All posters at both locations are for sale.
Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., Exhibit Hall
Primitive, Inc., 130 N. Jefferson St.
Free admission at both locations
Although at first glance the subject appears obscure, the posters are extraordinarily engaging.
Painted in oil paint on opened-up flour sacks, the only canvas available to the artists who created them, they advertise “B” and “C” Hollywood horror and action movies, Bollywood movies, Kung Fu movies from the Hong Kong film industry, and oftentimes bizarre movies (by American standards) from Nigeria and Ghana. Frankly, we find the posters more interesting than the films they advertise.
During the late 1980s a cottage industry developed in Ghana, West Africa, composed of young entrepreneurs who possessed three pieces of property – a TV, a videocassette recorder (VCR), and a portable, gas-powered generator. Armed with these tools, desire and ambition, they set up ramshackle theaters known as “video clubs,” showing movies on the VCR and charging admission. Sometimes, they would even take the show on the road and move from village to village. Yet, stationary or mobile, the common denominator was delighted and noisy audiences, who sat scattered on benches, chairs
and the ground itself.
In order to attract customers and sell tickets, club operators commissioned posters, which were painted on opened-up flour sacks. Yet, it is the imagery, not the canvas, which always succeeds in drawing the viewer into an imaginary, surreal world. As art and advertising, they are wildly successful, and it is the combination of the two which makes these posters so unforgettable.
In the world there is no refuge from change. Today, the posters have disappeared, replaced by photocopied handbills or printed posters. Although video clubs still exist in Ghana, they are in jeopardy as more and more households have TV and access to movies. VCRs are being replaced by DVDs, and computers are making their way into homes and businesses, providing another vehicle with which to obtain entertainment. Yet amidst this change some authentic posters remain, evidence of a brief moment in time where technology, art and ingenuity met in the cross hairs of history, imbued with an inexplicable, magical charm we call Movie Mojo.