THE DILEMMA OF A GHANAIAN CREATIVE

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Just like finding stars in the sky on a calm, bespangled night, it is easy to find creatives all across Ghana, brimming with impressive talents and hungry ambitions. The country is so rich with talent that it is no doubt, one of Africa’s top exporters of creativity. No wonder the black star sits so majestically in the core of the Ghanaian flag. From music to film, theatre, graphic design, fashion, painting, literature, and other creative industries, Ghanaian names shine bright in the big leagues. Despite the fact that Ghana is teeming with all of this talent, creatives who live within the borders of the country lament that they are weighed down by a number of dilemmas from day to day which threaten to stifle their dreams. This article will address some of the difficulties faced by young Ghanaian creatives who are on their way to becoming industry powerhouses.

I wouldn’t be far from the truth for making the assertion that the average Ghanaian creative gets confronted with obstacles quite early on in their journey to becoming the artists that they dream of. And these obstacles start to crawl up from under the very rooves of their homes. It is almost commonplace in this part of the world to find parents shun their children for expressing a wish to pursue a career in the creative industry, as an artist. If you told your parents that you wanted to become a PR manager, record label C.E.O., or something that sounded a bit more white-collar oriented, but still in the creative industry, you might get away with a pat on the back. A blessing even. But tell them you want to be a musician, painter, set/graphic designer, actor, etc. and watch how their reaction turns in the opposite direction. Nana Kwame, a spoken word poet, actor, and student of the School of Performing Arts at the University of Ghana shares:

A lot of times, this negativity is usually fueled by bad stereotypes about artists, and the fact that the creative vocation is not immediately profitable -a number of artists have attested to doing underpaid and sometimes, free gigs because they needed the exposure. So though it is no validation, the slowness in making revenue stands to give reason to why some parents, after years of having spent substantial amounts investing in their child's education are staunch on them getting jobs that pay for their work regularly, and in substantial amounts.


we don’t get the foundational support to start. Many parents want their child to become a lawyer or a doctor, not a performing artist. There is also something of a mockery from the community at large when you’re an upcoming artist. The support is not usually there until there is a semblance of success

In the educational system also, it is very difficult to find support for the arts. The educational syllabus pays very little or no attention to grooming young creatives with the intention of encouraging them to take up careers in creative fields. Only students in the so-called “I.S. (international school)” get access to things like piano, dance, painting, crafts, and so on classes. In government-run and middle-class aimed private schools, these art skill training/acquisition-oriented activities are usually engaged in as fun activities and scheduled for once a week, twice at most. A classic case of putting in a little play time to liven up Jack's dullness from all that work, (learning, in the Ghanaian sense). In Ghanaian high schools too, there is a hierarchy according to which intelligence is measured, with students in science disciplines at the top and visual art students at the bottom. On the tertiary level, support for creative arts education is a whole other different story. Recently, the School of Performing Arts of the University of Ghana was in the media to solicit funds to build a contemporary theatre space, complete with technical equipment. This project was launched more than 5 years ago but has still not seen the light of completion because of financial constraints. The fact that the country's famously dubbed 'Premier University' and topmost higher institution for the performing arts is yet to have the appropriate space for training artists is something that does not project well for the performing arts industry. 

Because of society’s overall attitude towards creatives, the industry suffers from a crippling deficiency of investors. Even artists in the mainstream creative industries lament bitterly this problem, and a series of controversies have trended in the media, involving record labels and artists, where it was alleged that the artists were being exploited by their record labels. Moreover, the government has been known to invest quite scarcely toward the growth of the art industry and as a result of this, many artistic projects go privately funded. Some creatives who have had a series of mishaps end up being burdens to their families as they always have to borrow to sponsor their projects. And boy, is it expensive to be a creative! The equipment, the lessons, the raw materials. 

Last in this article, but not least and certainly not the last of the problems Ghanaian creatives deal with, is Ghanaians' preference for the foreign artistic commodity over local ones. The painful irony of this is that many of these foreign music albums, movies, music videos, fashion brands and other artistic products that Ghanaians cherish so dearly, have been made so because of the hard work and dedication of some uber-talented fellow compatriots in the background. But should a designer for one of these beloved major international fashion brands decide to start a brand locally, they might be running the risk of ending their career because for many nationals, wearing an internationally recognized brand would make you appear more sophisticated and in tune with the rest of the world of fashion. 

Throughout time and history, it is quite difficult to think of someone who was shunned didn’t get fed up and chose rebellion. In many success stories also, there is usually that part where the protagonist starts to succeed because they are getting some love, support, and encouragement from someone. Looking at the problems Ghanaian creatives have to go through daily, and in various phases of their careers, it is tempting, not to come to the conclusion that anyone who chooses to pursue a career in the creative industry, chooses also to be haunted by its attending perils. As demonstrated here, the root of these problems can be traced all the way to the very homes these aspiring creatives grew up in; how they are/were treated, received and perceived by their own family. So, perhaps this narrative of the dilemma of Ghanaian creatives just might turn around for good if families started receiving their members who showed artistic talent in a more positive light? 

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