Bright Tetteh Ackwerh has emerged winner of the 2016 Kuenyehia Prize for Contemporary Ghanaian Art (the ‘Prize’), after the Prize’s jury panel selected him from a shortlist of ten impressive artists.
The Accra-based illustrator’s competing artwork titled ‘Tweaa Room: Confrontation’ powered him to the ultimate winner’s prize package of GHS 20,000, taking the crown from last year’s winner Kwame Akoto-Bamfo.
The KNUST-trained artist was announced winner by the chair of the Prize’s jury panel and special guest-of-honour Professor Emeritus El Anatsui, at a packed event held last Thursday evening at Ringway Estates in Accra.
The event had in attendance many people of influence in Ghana’s art scene, including prominent artists, heads of art and cultural institutions, members of the diplomatic corps and some big patrons of the arts in Ghana.
In a short address, Professor Anatsui – who spoke through a ‘linguist’, Nana Oforiatta-Ayim, fellow jury member and founder of the ANO Center for Cultural Research – praised the efforts the Prize is making at helping emerging artists at such a critical time, recalling his own experience participating in a similar contest in the late 1960s, and placing third.
The world-renowned sculptor expressed delight at the rich talents of the shortlisted artists, whose work he described as “strong in character and wonderfully varied in execution”.
Speaking on the hope of Ghana developing a vibrant art scene that could become a regional hub, Prof Anatsui said “this is a fine and reasonable ambition – but it will only happen if a lot of thought and careful attention is first given to creating a sustainable road-map for the development of the infrastructure required to support this young ‘eco-system’ – in order to help it grow strong. The fundamental component of this ‘eco-system’ is the artist,” emphasising the need to pay attention first to the creators of artistic work.
He praised the efforts of the Artist Alliance Gallery at Labadi, Accra, founded by Professor Ablade Glover, which since its founding has put the artist at the center of all it does, and called for more of such efforts.
Bright Ackwerh was not the only artist rewarded on the night, as three runners-up were also announced, to receive prize awards. Deryk Owusu-Bempah took the first-runner-up prize of GHS 2,500 for his photograph titled ‘Black Star Square’ while Setor Fiadzigbey emerged second runner-up for his illustration “Lost Sci-fi”, also taking home GHS 2,500.
There was a surprise element when for the first time, a third runner-up was revealed. It went to Maxwell Boadi for his painting “Exodus” earning him a GHS 2,000 prize. All four winners will also benefit from training, coaching and mentorship from select professionals and established artists.
The Kuenyehia Prize for Contemporary Ghanaian Art, in its second year, received over one hundred entries this year, signifying a telling need for more efforts at instituting artist development schemes to help the most important people in Ghana’s promising art scene; artists.