Manju Journal’s New Book Spotlights Ghana’s Booming Art Scene

Pin It
VOICES: Ghana’s Artists in Their Own Words
Clementine, 2022Photography by Sarfo Emmnauel Annor

As they publish their debut book, Manju Journal founder Richmond Orlando Mensah talks about pushing modern African art and creativity into the mainstream

Ghanaian curator, artist and director Richmond Orlando Mensah founded Manju Journal in 2015, with the aim of forging a space for local creatives in Accra to connect and build community. At the time, he was a student at the University of Ghana and had worked on various diplomatic ventures across Africa, but he felt himself gravitating to the growing creative revolution in various parts of the continent. “I saw first-hand how this generation of internet-enabled artists and creatives have pushed to be seen and heard on a global level, and at a local level, have fostered a real sense of community,” he tells AnOther. “I was inspired by the beauty and the various rich art forms of creativity from designers, painters, photographers, and visual storytellers, so I launched Manju as a digital platform to celebrate the talent coming out of Ghana, Africa and the diaspora.”

What began as an Instagram page curating the work of local talents and culture through visual arts and photography, manifested into a creative studio showcasing and commissioning the next generation of creative giants. Since launching in 2021, the studio has worked with the likes of Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger, and Gucci. “We strategically collaborate with innovative global brands and institutions interested in investing in Black and African culture,” explains Mensah. He, alongside his fashion director, Kusi Kubi – a Ghanaian stylist and creative director who joined Manju in 2020 – has built relationships with global brands and creatives all over the world, as a leading voice for creative arts in Ghana. Last month, they celebrated the launch of Manju Journal’s debut art book, Voice: Ghana’s Artists in Their Own Words.

Published by 24˚36˚,  the book spotlights Ghana’s growing art scene, featuring 80 Ghanaian creatives in Accra and across the global diaspora. It consists of photography and interviews from artists and curators such as Campbell Addy, Osei Bonsu, Zohra Opoku and Afia Prempeh, among others. “It was important for us to showcase a broad range of visual artists, not just photographers and painters,” says Mensah. “We spoke to digital artists, illustrators, sculptors, fabric designers, and ceramicists.” They were diverse in age and career levels too, featuring everyone from newly graduated painters to 94-year-old photographer James Barnor.

For Mensah, this was an important choice because it demonstrates the depths of creativity in Ghana, and paints a picture of the community element at the helm of it. “Through the artists’ own words and experiences, you really get to understand what’s going on here now. Whenever you speak to a Ghanaian artist, they’ll spend half their time talking about other artists, their friends and colleagues, as well as other exhibitions they’ve seen – the sense of community is incredible,” Mensha adds. “The way people work, collaborate and help each other.” 

While documenting beautifully curated local art, VOICES is a testament to this community spirit. Mensah used a fully Ghanaian team to create the book – including the striking cover photo, shot by Accra-based photographer Jude Lartey. “We are fundamentally very creative and expressive in our culture,” he says. “That’s been the case for hundreds of years – now it’s just most obvious in terms of the contemporary art world.” 

The new vanguard of African visual art has become more apparent than ever this year, with global exhibitions and works championing art from across the continent around the world. Mensah’s goal is to push things even further. “Our hope is that this book will encourage people to explore more contemporary African artists, galleries and curators,” says Mensah. “We want to help push modern African art and creativity into the mainstream. At Manju, we see it as part of our work to create and participate in conversations between the continent and its diaspora. These conversations should be as expansive as possible, to create space for us to learn from each other without being filtered by an external gaze. We want to continue to be the megaphone for all the beautiful, creative voices around us.” 

VOICES: Ghana’s Artists in Their Own Words is published by 24˚36˚ and is out now.