African Paintings by a Ghanaian Artist
- Our Exclusive Interview with Appiah Ntiaw -
True African Art: What's going on through your mind when you are creating your African paintings?
Appiah Ntiaw: What I am thinking while I am painting is that this is my professional job that I am doing. I go to my studio and paint in my profession as a doctor goes to work in a hospital and treats their patients. I treat my contemporary African art in this way so that I can do everything that I have been trained to do, in addition to following my instincts. But a lot goes through my mind: I think about Africa and I think about how I can motivate people. I don't want my painting to hang on someone's wall just as a decoration. I want my African paintings to serve also as a motivation for people, to heal, or to encourage people in some way. If I have a topic in mind to paint, I do it in such a way that it serves two purposes: decoration and motivation.
How do your Black African art paintings develop from the start? What is their source?
African painters, most all of us, we reflect the environment we are living in: where we were trained, where we were born, who we are. That's where I draw my inspiration and also just from what goes on in everyday life in Africa.
You live in Denmark now. How did you end up there?
Actually, I am a member of this group called African Footprints International. As an NGO, African Footprints International's main objective is to bridge the gap between the physically challenged and able people.
One of its branches is a musical group focusing on drum beats and dancing who work with Ghanaians who happen to be deaf. One may think that they cannot hear the music to dance, but they can actually feel the beat of the drum's vibrations, thus they can feel it enough to dance to it.
African Footprints International does many other things as well, like sign language schools, fashion training, teaching, technology training, cultural differences training, and exchanging students between countries.
I was lucky enough to be chosen to come and train here in Denmark. Now, with my work, I can go back and forth to Ghana and train other people to do the same works that I am doing here in Denmark.
And has being in Denmark changed your artistic style or your view of artwork in general?
I would say no, it has not changed my style. Since I came here, I have been in several exhibitions where I've displayed my African paintings. These exhibitions have been across the country and I don't see my style there from any other artists. So I once said that if I stay and sell here I have to be on the main population's art style. But after talking to you and a few other people I trust when it comes to my African art you all say, 'We like your style, keep on doing it!' And I say okay to that, though it is going against the tide here. So I continue doing my style and people are interested! And I keep selling here in Denmark. But you at True African Art.com, these past several months we have been communicating, you have been always giving me my motivation. It's helped me stay true to who I am as an African artist. So I say to my myself now, 'Ah, let me stay on my own track.'
Do you do work besides making contemporary African art paintings?
Yes, previously with The Juel Sandberg Company I designed anything fashion with leather.
What is one thing you know for sure about your ability to do art?
I see myself as a motivator. If I paint a woman carrying a pot for an example, I make it in such a way, that when one looks at my African art paintings, I try to do it in such a way that the woman looks nice and is dressed nicely. People sometimes make Black African art such that we as African people, we look out of date, primitive, or dirty, which is an inaccurate whole perspective of Africa. If you see my paintings, you always see Africans dressed nicely. So I say in that way I am a motivator for self-esteem when I am depicting my people in my African art paintings.
Tell us about your family.
I have my Mother and my Father, two older sisters, and two junior brothers. We, the siblings, we are five, I am in the middle. One of my sisters is in Cape Coast and the other sister is staying with my Mom. My brothers work in the military doing peacekeeping in Liberia. They are in the Ghanaian Air Force. Ghana has a partnership with the United Nations and they send them to where there is a war to make peace and help them to rebuild the country, intellectually and physically.
What does Africa mean to you? What pride do you have for your fellow Ghanaians?
Africa is my roots. There is nothing I can do to change it. Even if I change my color I am still an African. I hold myself as an African in everything that I do. Africa is my origins, it is where I belong. It is my roots.
What do you hope to achieve in the future?
I want to get to a state where my message reaches people on a broad scale. In the future, I want to see my Black African art paintings not only in people's homes or private office, but in the public places: a train station, an airport, on the television, in government buildings, that's where I want to see my paintings hung. I want my messages in my African paintings to become public. There's a good message in them and it speaks to the whole public, not only to Africans, not only to Europeans, but the whole world.
Want to read more about this African painter?
Read True African Art .com's additional biography of Appiah Ntiaw.
"Between Morning and Evening"