Semi-naked women are essential, preferably holding a knife dripping with blood. As some kind of ninja, evil zombie and a decapitated head are preferable. A humanoid tortoise vomiting money is optional, although certainly desierable. With Ghanaian movie posters, gore, blood, nudity, violence and general nastiness are the currency of commerce.
In the 1980s, travelling cinema was the way that most Ghanaian’s consumed movies – and still is in some areas. Touring rural Ghana with a TV, VHS tape and player, the moving cinema would roll up in town, set up a tent and litter the area with movie posters – fabulous, fantastical movie posters to advertise the show. Whether it was the latest Hollywood blockbuster, Hong Kong action flick or the latest from an African filmmaker, the artist would hand paint a poster on flour sacks, with an enticing image, often without having seen the film at all.
It was the portrayals of monsters, superheroes, half naked women that attracted German gallery and art book publishers, Bongoût, to release two books, Ghana Movie Posters, and this year, Ghanavision, a second volume which collates dozens of unique hand-painted movie posters from their private collection.
Cristina Ayala of Bongoût told Time Out , ‘The art works are particularly charming. They can be quite naive but they possess such a bewitching quality.
‘We learned it is not unusual that the self-taught artists often only saw a few photo stills. These wild translations of film to canvas, with such minimal information, are quite brilliant. Nothing is lost, but everything is gained, from subtle nuances, to screaming accents.
‘They are pure imagination, pure theory, pure everything delicious that you cannot and never will touch!’
The aesthetic is familiar to Ghanaians who see similar hand-painted posters advertising anything from a hairdressing salon to (particularly graphic) signs for medical centres.
‘You see through their eyes when looking at these posters,’ Cristina adds. ‘They carry history with them, literally the dust and bruises of the African landscapes.’
The books are available from whttp://www.resurgo-berlin.com/ and Amazon, and the originals for sale from their Berlin Gallery, however, second hand signs and posters, in this unique artistic vernacular, can often be bought from market stalls in Ghana.