HomeNewsExporting our heritage: Ghana art finds home in the Emirates

Exporting our heritage: Ghana art finds home in the Emirates

It was in October 2021 that Efiɛ Gallery, co-founded by Valentina Mintah and her sons Kobi and Kwame, made its global debut with a pop-up pavilion exhibition in Burj Plaza in Dubai. The event formed part of the All Africa Festival and provided a highly acclaimed preview of the gallery’s longer-term plans for Dubai and the region. Now in a permanent exhibition space, offering contemporary works, the gallery is the latest addition to the Al Khayat Art Avenue in Dubai’s Al Quoz Creative Zone, specialising in the promotion of artists from Africa, both within the continent and the diaspora, with a particular focus on artists from, especially, West Africa. Excited about the establishment of a joint for African art in the Emirates by the Ghanaian trio, PaJohn Bentsifi Dadson found out why the Emirates was chosen for this project.

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Photo by: Khushnum Bhandari / The National

Tuesday 8th March 2022, the premises of one of the first movers to secure permanent gallery space in the new Al Khayat Art Avenue – an exciting new cultural destination and an integral new development within the expanding Al Quoz Arts District was buzzing with activity. Efiɛ Gallery, an art gallery with Ghanaian lineage, was opening with a major solo exhibition, titled ‘Shard Song’, showcasing works from renowned Ghanaian artist, El Anatsui.

Curated by Mae-Ling Lokko, the educator, architectural scientist, and biomaterials technology researcher of Ghanaian and Philippino heritage whose work centers on the upcycling of agrowaste and biopolymer materials, there is a statement being made by the new gallery which has a threefold mission, embedded in the notions of artist promotion, protection, and preservation.

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Focused on building strong relationships with artists to appropriately represent and shape a narrative bound to their work and the vision they have for this artwork, the gallery boasts some 3,000sqm of open exhibition space, with a mezzanine that hosts an artist’s studio for residency programmes catering for both the gallery’s foreign and local artists, and creates a unique platform for collaboration and exchange between West Africa and the Emirate regions.

“The selection of Dubai for the first location of Efie Gallery and the respective decision to open this address with the work of El Anatsui,” explains Valentina, “is in seeking to add to the cross-cultural exchange between the Middle East and Africa.”

Valentina Mintah. Photo by Khushnum Bhandari / The National

A technology executive, internationally recognised for her expertise in trade facilitation, who was elected to the Executive Board of the International Chamber of Commerce – the first black female board member in the Chamber’s 100-year history. Ms. Mintah is founder and former CEO of West Blue Consulting, an award-winning ICT organisation based in West Africa recognised for the economic impact of its technology solutions by the International MonetaryFund, the World Customs Organisation and the International Chamber of Commerce.

An avid art collector, she believes that “the nascence of the contemporary art scene in Dubai offers the perfect terrain for expansion and innovation. Wheras in the West where there has been the need and desire to deconstruct previous narratives surrounding African artists and art from Africa, here in the East we are presented with a unique opportunity to rather focus on the construction of a narrative and the shaping of a new environment in regard to art from the continent.”

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There’s a section that’s set to exhibit rare and important vinyl records from around the world. Offering an intimate space where visitors can enjoy a relaxed environment, serving an assortment of specialty bites and beverages, this section of the gallery will highlight the intersection of art and music, ultimately allowing for a holistic celebration of the Arts.
Lokko does an exceptional job, curating the ‘Shard Song”, representing Anatsui’s evolving work. She is ably assisted by both co-founders, Kwame and Kobi, who both work and live in Accra, Dubai & London, cities at the forefront of the evolving new art world.

Kwame, also an art collector, studied Philosophy and Ethics at King’s College, London, and previously worked in the global fashion industry. His love of art and his foray into its business was piqued when he came across works of African photographers and filmmakers whose work truly inspired him. Kobi came up with the name Efiɛ, translated as ‘Home’ in Akan, to express a love of his community, in the promotion of contemporary African art. With a background in film and Master of Arts in Intellectual Property, he approaches the creation of the gallery as a means to represent his heritage.

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