This young Ghanaian photographer hopes to use his art to heal
Through Prince Gyasi’s iPhone lens, the world is a hyper colourful place full of the hope and beauty of youth. The young Ghanaian visual artist wields his smart phone to tell stories that not only cast his home city of Accra in a new light but also express positive messages about knowledge, leadership and creativity.
His on-going BoxedKids project is case in point. It focuses on the underprivileged children who live the fishing community of Jamestown. “The title refers to kids who are trapped in a place or situation,” he explains. “Their parents can’t afford to send them to school, so they are growing up missing out on those opportunities and privileges they’d get from an education,” Gyasi explains. “In 2014 my mother organised an event in Jamestown to provide food and clothes, which got me thinking that the answer isn’t hand outs but to show them the way. We [he and his writer girlfriend, Kuukua] set up an Instagram and a GoFundMe page.”
The idea was not only to raise funds but to also inspire the children through creativity. Since then he has consistently shot with a number of kids and recently collaborated with Surf Ghana to teach them skateboarding. “We want to do this for a long time and take some kids through to college, so they can make a better future for themselves.”
“The norm is not for everyone. I’m different”
Gyasi got the photography bug when he too was a kid. “When my mother went fabric shopping at Makola Market, she’d drop me off at this photographer’s small studio. I’d always dress well because I knew he’d take pictures of me with his two old cameras.” He started experimenting with the medium himself during high school using a Blackberry phone, and was inspired by his friends’ music and his own poetry to come up with conceptual images. He had aspirations of becoming an abstract painter but got hooked on iPhone image making and for the past four years has been developing a style based on his love of bright hues. “Colour can serve as a therapy, it can treat depression and transform emotions. I’ve studied those things because I want to make art that makes you feel better.”
In series such as Patience & Purpose, Woman, Care-Love and Phases, his muses adopt meaningful poses, carry loads or become bold, beautifully dark silhouettes against pop bright backdrops and altered landscapes. Their impact is instant and they exude a sense of strength and resilience.
Apple has repeatedly recognised his work, as has Instagram, and he’s now represented by Nil Gallery in Paris, which has found favour for his work at art fairs across the US. Meanwhile he’s found a mentor in creative entrepreneur Joshua Kissi, been profiled by ABC News and Suitcase, and those who own one of his pieces include film director Ava Duvernay and President Nana Akufo-Addo.
Does this success mean it’s time to ditch the mobile phone and pick up a DSLR? In short, no. “The norm is not for everyone. I’m different and I’m stubborn. I like to challenge myself to do the same thing that traditional photographers do using just my phone,” he says. “But I don’t want to die a photographer. I want to die an artist. Most of my images look like a painting from a far and they are art pieces not photographs. I want to be one of the top artists in the world and I want to leave a legacy.”
Images courtesy of Prince Gyasi and Nil Gallery, Paris
Nataal would like to thank the British Council’s West Africa Arts programme for supporting our editorial focus on Ghana
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Published on 23/10/2018