Thursday, January 16, 2014

ABOVE DEATH / Ghanaian Movie Posters

One of the benefits of buying junk is that sometimes, every once in a while, you find something super interesting. This handpainted Ghanaian movie poster was found earlier this year in a whole-sale lot. After doing a bit of research we found out more about the painting, its purpose, and the history behind Ghanian movie posters, and mobile video clubs that emerged in the late 80s. Basically, these mobile cinemas consisted of a VCR, a TV and a power generator. The operator would move the setup from town to town showing films in social clubs, houses, and open air. In order bring out more people, and to advertise their business, artists were commissioned to create large interpretations of scenes from the film (which would be shown to them ahead of time) using acrylic paint on flour sacks. Painters were encouraged to change scenes, or add elements beyond the film's content to make the screenings seem more appealing. Depending on the poster, a depiction might represent personal or social form of expression. Sometimes, the title of the film itself could even be mis-translated. Posters were folded and/or rolled for easy transportation along with the other equipment. Read  more about this interesting history below, and check out the photos of the painting that we found! If you would like to bid on this piece of history, visit the auction on our ebay page. There is also a great book, "Extreme Canvas: Handpainted Movie Posters from Ghana" with hundreds of other great examples that is worth checking out.

TYPE:  Horror
DATE OF CREATION:  probably 1990s
ARTIST: SA MAGASCO for Peace Video
SIGNED: SA MAGASCO lower right verso
SIZE:  43.5” W x 60” H
MEDIUM:  Acrylic on flour sack canvas

CONDITION:  This is an original authentic piece in good condition.  The painting is mostly complete, the perimeter of the poster worn away and discarded due to usage, travel and light exposure. Please see photos.  

GENERAL BACKGROUND:  In the late 1980s a cottage industry developed in Ghana, West Africa composed of entrepreneurs who possessed three pieces of property – a TV, videocassette recorder (known then as a VCR), and a portable, gas powered generator. Armed with these tools they set up itinerant, make shift theaters inside social clubs, houses, and restaurants where they showed movies on the VCR and sold tickets to a delighted and noisy audience.  Sometimes, they even traveled from village to village; but it was the need to attract customers that gave birth to what is now recognized as a distinctive, compelling collectible — the Ghanaian movie poster.

Generally speaking, the movies they showed fall into four broad categories: Hollywood movies, most often obscure titles with an occasional hit thrown in for good measure; Bollywood movies from India; Kung Fu movies from the Hong Kong film industry; and Nollywood movies from Nigeria along with their Ghanaian counterparts.
The artists who created the posters were essentially commercial illustrators who used acrylic paint to make shop signs and other forms of advertising. When it came to the canvas their own economic circumstances and resourcefulness led them to use opened-up flour sacks.  This material was cheap, readily available, and the perfect size for large posters. These were posters meant to be displayed outside, and surviving posters often have the patina of authenticity, having “aged” in a distressed, engaging manner.

Ghanaian movie posters always present a lurid, colorful patchwork of images intended to attract, engage and entice the viewer. Each and every time they succeed in sucking the viewer into an imaginary, surreal world which may or may not be relevant to the film. As art and advertising, they are wildly successful, and it is the combination of the two which makes them memorable, indeed unforgettable when compared to other movie memorabilia and poster art in general.  Today, the creation of these posters has all but disappeared as they have been replaced by printed advertising.  This and the other original posters we are selling represent a brief moment in time when art, ingenuity and advertising met in the cross hairs of history - and then they were gone.  

1 comment:

  1. Hey,I love the old posters. My favorite being the Back to the Future ones. I absolutely love them. Although the new World War Z movie wasn't quite the best, just ok, its movie poster in my opinion was really good. The one I'm referring to is the black and white one with the zombies climbing to get the helicopter, not the one with Brad Pitt on it. What is your opinion on it? Thank you!!