Re-Painting the RED to WHITE
urban intervention in Ayigya-Zongo, Kumasi, Ghana
Ralitsa Diana Debrah, in cooperation with Charlie Michaels, 2011
In Ghana, international mobile phone companies choose to use the walls of family living spaces as cheap advertising. These questionable methods take advantage of the fragile economic and social status of the people, as families are commonly given little or nothing in return. The streetscape of Ghanaian cities and villages is quickly changing as the number of branded homes grows. Public space that once belonged to local communities and families is now being claimed and privatized by the bright, ubiquitous and distracting logos. Vodafone's brandings are strikingly red. Vodafone Ghana proclaims on their website: "We paint the world red".
In talks with the residents in Ayigya-Zongo, Debrah was told that the services of the mobile phone companies are welcomed, but not at all the aggressive and partly illegal branding. The inhabitants of the community expressed a strong preference toward white painted houses without advertisements.
In a workshop with the artist, around fifteen children from Ayigya intervened against the visual pollution on house walls using new "Adinkra" symbols. These symbols (see Adinkra Update) had been created by the AWAY IS A PLACE workshop participants to represent the challenging questions of globalization.
Using stencils, the children printed the symbols in red on wornout white t-shirts to give them a new look. In this way, they recycled old shirts instead of throwing them to "a place called away".
With their fashionable new shirts, the participating children posed for pictures in front of the Vodafone advertisements. Then they printed their photos and pasted them over the white Vodafone logos on the red walls.
The children's message was to say that the house walls should be painted white like the colour of their shirts while the Vodafone logo should be replaced with a red Adinkra symbol like the prints on their shirts.
With this work Debrah continues the collaborative 2009 project Re-Painting the Red.

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