Solidarity as Remedy

a divination of enjoyment: extended play (EP) vol. 3 | Photo: Ruth Ntiah | Courtesy: ZEAL 

a divination of enjoyment: extended play (EP) vol. 3

In recent years, the Government of Ghana and its Tourism Authority launched a campaign to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Jamestown, Va.. “The ‘Year of Return,” as it was coined, aimed to deepen the connection between Ghana and the diaspora while boosting local trade and tourism. It was launched in 2019, followed by a second edition called “Beyond the Return” in 2020. This massive campaign quickly propelled Ghana onto the global stage as a premier destination in West Africa, a reputation it quietly had been cultivating for years as a favorite vacation spot, particularly in December. 

“What would this mean for the nation?” is what many queried about this fast-growing cultural and entertainment hub. The “Detty” December (end of year festivities), as millennials and Gen Zs call it, is characterized by wild nights out, concerts and numerous back-to-back events. However, the influx of diasporans in Ghana during this period may come at a detrimental cost to locals, who could be priced out of their favorite neighborhood spots. How can we ethically reconcile these two perspectives?

“We must redirect our emotional behavior and economic practices in the private sector, especially in the creative industry’s value chain away from exploitation and extraction as the norm for healing to be possible.” – ZEAL Co-op

Numerous ancient castles and forts lie on the coast of Ghana, a country filled with excitement and adventure. These structures, which once served as transit points for enslaved Africans from across the continent, marking the beginning of their journey across the Atlantic to Europe and the Americas, have become monuments that bear witness to a harrowing history of torture, dehumanization and death for millions of enslaved Africans. 

The trans-Atlantic slave trade, one of the largest long-distance forced movements of people in recorded history, was also a highly profitable enterprise for many European and Euro-American slaveholders who traded slaves as chattel property, exploiting their labor and skills. The remnants of these memories and histories continue to influence the lives of many Africans, African Americans and the diaspora as a whole, drawing them to these sites in search of solace and healing through spiritual connection, whether seeking lost ancestors, reconnecting with roots, or embracing the concept of “The Homeland.” 

Cape Coast Castle Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean | Photo: Laurel Richardson 

In a divination of enjoyment: extended play (EP) vol. 3, curated by nii.a.k, he underscores ideals of care and solidarity, expanding current dialogues on reparations and restitution. These concepts go beyond the current debate on the return of looted objects and artifacts into exploring a collective process of healing. The immersive exhibition, which constitutes The Remedy is Solidarity, a Global Multimedia Anthology on Reparations features artists Xane Asiamah, Efia Serwah, Nana Danso, Selorm Fiadjoe, Sel Kofiga and Francis Kokoroko. nii.a.k poses a thought-provoking question: “What if the sea is the earth’s mirror? What lessons does the world’s reflection offer us during times of crisis and celebration?” 

a divination of enjoyment invites artists working within mediums that echo facets of African spiritual cosmologies from an indigenous and culturally non-extractive perspective. This approach aims to address the topic of reparations for the harms inflicted by the trans-Atlantic slave trade and colonialism. 

a divination of enjoyment: extended play (EP) vol. 3 | Photo: Ruth Ntiah | Courtesy: ZEAL 

Speaking with Efia Serwah, whose work within the exhibition embraces queerness and recognizes fluidity as an integral part of Africanness despite historical marginalization through colonialist tools of assimilation (religion, penal codes), the othering of what we know as innate. 

“My work seeks to look beyond the ‘frame’ mold left by colonialism and ask Africans collectively to dream towards more inclusive realities.” Serwah makes reference to Saidiya Hartman’s Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, which delves into the revolutionary shifts in Black intimate life that occurred in Philadelphia and New York in the early 20th century for young Black women, questioning the concept of freedom, forging new forms of intimacy and kinship, unconstrained by societal norms. 

They navigated relationships on their own terms, engaging in non-traditional unions and redefining marriage. Their actions were driven by longing and desire, as they rejected the oppressive labor conditions of industrialization and demanded better treatment. Hartman credits these women with shaping a cultural movement that reshaped urban society. 

Efia Serwah, a divination of enjoyment: extended play (EP) vol. 3 | Photo: Ruth Ntiah | Courtesy: ZEAL

In essence, the exhibition did not only reaffirm nii.a.k’s dedication to fostering creative and cultural connections between Africans and the diaspora but also underscored his commitment to addressing the challenges faced by cultural practitioners as evident in the journey of ZEAL Co-op, a Black arts cooperative that offers supports with networks of creatives to reclaim their birthright as creatives who co-create cultural equity, cooperatively own, steward and govern the means of their cultural production and drive the economic vehicles and infrastructure necessary for arts and culture ecosystems in historically vulnerable communities to thrive mutually. 

DZIDZOR and nii.a.k | a divination of enjoyment: extended play (EP) vol. 3 | Photo: Ruth Ntiah | Courtesy: ZEAL

a divination of enjoyment: extended play ep vol. 3 debuted on Dec. 15, 2023 at The Mix Design Hub. The opening reception featured a live podcast hosted by If More Let’s Divide featuring Sidney Fayorsey (operations manager, Accra Art Week), Sefa Gohoho Boatin (founder and director, Untamed Empire), Eyetsa Ocloo (co-founder, La Gallery Accra) and nii.a.k (co-creator and principal member, ZEAL). 

The exhibition remained open until Dec. 29, 2023. Its closing ceremony culminated in a live panel discussion titled “The Remedy is Solidarity: Reparations and the Creative Economy in the Diaspora,” moderated by nii.ak. The panel included Amma Aboagye (founder, Afropole), Nuna Adisenu-Doe (founder and director, Compound House Gallery), House of Aama (mother-and-daughter design duo Rebecca Henry and Akua Shabaka), Daniel Quist (creative director, De Fortyfive and board member, The OR Foundation) and Efia Serwah Barning (featured artist).

(left to right) nii.a.k, Rebecca Henry, Akua Shabaka, Amma Aboagye, Daniel Quist, Nuna Adisenu-Doe, Efia Serwah | Photo: Ruth Ntiah | Courtesy: ZEAL
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