Art work in Ayigya-Zongo
In July/August 2011 we held the AWAY IS A PLACE workshop on the campus of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi. Just across the street from the gated university campus we found the Ayigya district with a zongo community. Most of the women we met day by day on campus selling bananas, peanuts, kenkey, water sachets and tilapia from the tops of their heads, live in Ayigya-Zongo.

Workshop participants (drawing: Rex Akinruntan)
On our first walk through the neighbourhood we saw many difficulties we thought the residents could be facing in their daily life. We decided to approach people living there, ask them to tell us about the positive and negative aspects of their everyday life and then try to visualize these issues with them.
The first meeting was in the evening with the assembly man and the tribal chiefs. After having explained our intentions to create a series of collaborative art projects with the residents, we were accepted and given free admittance to the community. The next morning we were invited to come again, and meetings were arranged with people in the community we might work with.
HMJokinen was introduced to Adiza Bukari, her first interview partner who then quickly invited friends to join the project Ayigya Voices. Ralitsa Diana Debrah accompanied the work and helped to translate. On walking tours Adiza Bukari, Adiba Bukari and Mariatu Yusif introduced the community.
For Charlie Michaels a meeting was arranged at the local primary school, and we found ourselves in a classroom with ten children and many more at the door step, urgently wanting to join in. Over the course of the next week Charlie Michaels, along with Epilogue Annku and Ralitsa Diana Debrah, gave photography lessons to the participating group. The children took hundreds of photos based on prompts given to them which show personal, fresh and often surprising views of their surroundings, communicating what and how they value the place they live > Photographs by Children in Ayigya-Zongo
The high tension tower which has been erected in the middle of the community, became the object of Rex Akinruntan's sculptural work: the artist covered the lower parts of the metallic feet with plastic waste material in order to protect residents, and above all children, from receiving dangerous electric shocks during rainy periods. The words "home" and "mobile", printed on the plastic bags, took on quite new meanings that reflected the difficult housing rights in the zongo and threats of forced eviction due to the high tension tower.
On the university campus, Akinruntan built a landscape of installations consisting of electronic waste that he found in Ayigya as well as waste copper wire and discarded plastic water sachets. He took a critical view at the importation of garbage from rich countries, his installations subtly bringing to mind traditional Ghanain Adinkra symbols.
Dankwa Kwabena Ampadu also was occupied with the high tension tower. He designed the comic-like postcard DANGER! that warned against climbing to the top of the high tension tower. The postcard was to be distributed among the children in the neighbourhood.
Ralitsa Diana Debrah engaged in redesigning the omnipresent and aggressive Vodafone brandings with contemporary "Adinkra" symbols, created by the workshop participants. She invited children of Ayigya to print t-shirts and participate in a performance during which the brandings on a house wall were pasted over with the new "Adinkra" messages. With this work she continued the collaborative 2009 project Re-Painting the Red.
Debrah also produced a film about three women documenting their exhausting walk up and down dusty, eroded roads to the remote drinking water spot. The artist is planning a longterm community garden project in cooperation with residents of Ayigya, in which unemployed youth will be invited to participate.  
For one week during the workshop we were able to work in this wonderful neighbourhood researching, mapping, photographing, interviewing, installing, filming, painting signs on houses, and simply playing with children or sitting under a tree and chatting with the residents. As we became closer to the people, we experienced openess and encountered generous hospitality. At the end of our week there, we created a series of public exhibitions in urban space mentioned above, as well as an exhibition in our workshop room on the university campus where we happily welcomed many curious visitors from Ayigya-Zongo.
Our week in Ayigya-Zongo became an unforgettable experience. We cordially want to thank all the people we met and worked with, especially Abiba Bukari, Adiza Bukari, Adisa Issah, Fati Issah, Hawa Yusif, Mariatu Yusif and the children Bashir Abdul Mumuni, Cecilia Yeboah, Eric Takyi, Ive Serwaa Kwame, John Akutu, Jude Ganda Bawah, Mansur Mumuni, Rispa Acheampong, Sadique Abubakari, Serwaa Margaret Adu.
It was a great pleasure to discuss and develop the project AWAY IS A PLACE with our Ghanaian colleagues and workshop participants who gave us valuable insights and opened our eyes to many central aspects of Ghanaian society: Dankwa Kwabena Ampadu, Dunyo Freeman Kwame, Mawuli K. Amedofu, S. Daniel Ohene, Emmanuel Osei-Tutu.
For their thought provoking projects, persistent help, assistance and translation we would like to embrace the artists and our dear friends Rex Akinruntan, Epilogue Annku, Gilbert Amegatcher - and especially Ralitsa Diana Debrah whose organisational talent made everything possible.
September, 2011
HMJokinen, Charlie Michaels

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