Expanding the Canon

A Brief Critique of Visual Art Studies in Ghana

Nii Otokunor Quarcoopome


This article explores the last six decades of visual art studies in Ghana. It focuses primarily on historic indigenous art genres. For strategic reasons, and because of space constraints, it excludes contemporary idioms like studio-based painting and sculpture as well as videography, photography, and performance art. The essay reviews the historical and recent scholarship dealing with traditional Ghanaian art, highlighting the most relevant research and the significant gaps in knowledge. The exploration concludes with a list of the challenges facing the field, among them the striking unevenness in the representation of the ethnic groups that comprise the nation, the predominance of Akan art studies, and the need to refine the methodologies deployed for studying the arts of Ghana. It also advocates for a paradigm shift that broadens the existing canon and encourages interdisciplinary scholarly collaboration and cross-ethnic comparative studies to achieve a more complete art history of Ghana.

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