In July 2013, Secrets Under the Skin went "home" to Ghana, in a sense, for the seed of this entire project is Ghana. Opening first at the Nubuke Foundation in the capital city of Accra, the show went next to the University of Cape Coast, Cape Coast Ghana.
As in Havana, religious practitioners, drummers, and dancers were able to come to the installation's opening weekend at the Nubuke Foundation in Accra July 6th and 7th to witness and perform. It was a moment of introspection for all of us involved at Nubuke when the religious practitioners, drummers and dancers arrived from Dzodze 3 hours east of Accra, and crossed the threshold of the Nubuke Foundation in song, dance, and music announcing their arrival. Later that afternoon, they performed. For me personally, I understood that we kept our promise of sharing the results of the research with those who entrusted the research team. Additionally, the U.S. ambassador to the Ghanaian Embassy and his wife, Gene and Annette Cretz, were present to view the installation. The U.S. Embassy provided logistical support for Secrets Under the Skin in Ghana.
Jill Flanders Crosby, Project Director
Over a decade ago, Jill Flanders Crosby took me to one of the Ghanaian villages where she does her research. I was enchanted then with the whole idea of the project – of drawing connections between present-day Ghanaians and the descendants of Ghanaians living in Cuba. But nothing could prepare me for how rich and magical the final exhibition would be, for how profoundly it would express something words could never convey. The glorious painted portraits, the beautiful photographic images, the haunting live performance, the sounds that surround you, the videos that tap into something deep that you can't describe… each part is wonderful, and they join together to create an experience that is altogether magical. Similarly, nothing prepared me for how beautifully the project would be received in Accra, by members of the Dzodze Shrine and by the many other capital city residents who came to the opening.
Secrets is not a straightforward exhibition, not traditional in any way, and some of it is quite abstract. But everyone who came was drawn into its beauty. The people from Dzodze expressed their happiness by blessing the exhibit with a thrilling session of dancing and drumming and prayers. The academics and businesspeople and journalists and artists lingered and wandered throughout the lovely exhibit space, taking it all in, talking quietly with each other, exploring content and meaning, discovering beauty. And if anyone wondered, "Who are these Americans coming here to portray us?" their doubts were erased by the true respect that underpins everything in Secrets. This is an exhibit that speaks profoundly and respectfully of the people who are at the heart of the project – and of their lives, cultures, beliefs and rituals. And that respect was repaid by the Ghanaians at the opening, whose response was universally acceptance, appreciation, pleasure, and joy.
Brooks Anne Robinson, U.S. Department of State Foreign Service Officer who served at the U.S. Embassy in Ghana.
We had no idea what the response would be to Secrets Under the Skin in Ghana. The show filled the Nubuke Foundation gallery beautifully, and we sat back and waited to see if anybody would come. The reception was packed. The work initiated dialogues we did not expect. A woman told me her own grandmother was taken to Trinidad and returned with a brand on her back when slavery was abolished. "People in Ghana do not want to talk. This is opening up a story entirely," she said. Our intention was to show the cultural links between Ghana and Cuba, but Ghanaians saw their own history. When the drummers and dancers came from Dzodze to perform their traditional music and dance, we cried. When they entered the gallery and saw themselves in videos, photos and paintings, they were transfixed. We all felt that the show was really for them.
Dashi Kemeh Nkegbe in front of her portrait by Susan Matthews.
ArchiAfrika, is interested in broadening the discourse on Africa’s built environment to encompass the role of socio-cultural design inspired development. ArchiAfrika Accra is the newly established operating arm of ArchiAfrika Foundation and both organizations are based in Ghana. The organization's goal is to promote design strategies developed within the continent which address the challenges of our future and engage the next generation of professionals in this critical dialogue. AAAccra is the organizer of the Adventurers in the Diaspora (AiD) a monthly forum, which highlights the achievements of creative people and their role in the development agenda of Ghana.
Bernard "Solar" Kwashie drumming at the Nubuke Opening Celebration
For more information about the Nubuke Foundation, visit their website: https://nubukefoundation.viewingrooms.com/
All images on this page by Brian Jeffery.