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General News of Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Source: Myjoyonline.com

Furore over Otumfuo’s statue: Threat to public art?

On buildings, billboards and in the streets of Kumasi, Otumfuo’s image never fails to show up.

His 15-feet high, 3-year-old bronze effigy is the jewel of the Airport Roundabout.

The Garden City of Kumasi, traditionally adorned with effigies of past royals has never seen such banter among residents over an issue as happened on May 2, 2019.

It was at the sod-cutting for Phase Two of the Kejetia-Central Market Redevelopment Project.

A statue of Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, erected at the new market constructed under Phase One was unveiled.

And that sparked fierce debate!

“His face is broad and very nice but as for this one his face is rough and mangled, it doesn’t resemble him,” said petty trader, Kumi Agyei, gazing curiously at the statue.

“When you’re coming from afar, it resembles the King but when you stand beneath, the statue changes,” pointed out Akua Afriyie.

“Look at the entire face, the nose, the lips and the eyes nothing shows it’s not the King, anyone who says it’s not him is a liar,” cloth seller, Akosua Achiaa, cut in forcefully.

“He really resembles him; those who are saying it’s not him don’t know him,” Afia Ataa reinforced.

Brazilian firm, Contracta, subleted the erection of the statue to Municipal Chief Executive of Suame and former lecturer in Leatherwork at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) Dr John Osei Bobie.

A team of sculptors, led by KNUST Sculptor postgraduate, Matthew Martey Abuatey, was called upon to execute the job.

He was assisted by Arimiyaw Sulemana and Samiratu Abdulai, also KNUST Sculptor postgraduate.

Mr Abuatey sculpted animal statues at Kakum National Park and, more recently, the bust of President of the National House of Chiefs Togbe Afede the fourteenth.

At 19.5 feet, 2 meters in width and standing on 6-footer-pedestal, the statue is the largest in the country.

The work which took place at the premises and supervised by Dr Osei Bobie started in December last year is estimated at over GHS100, 000.

“It was constructed with fibreglass polyester resin, backed up with silicon so we have a very tough mould,” Matthew elaborates.

“They sent the mould to their partners in Brazil and Great Britain and It’s after this [that] Contracta gave the green light for the second stage that is mould making and casting,” Mr Abuatey revealed.

Delegations of chiefs from Manhyia Palace have on more than seven occasions inspected the project.

“On the last day when they came to inspect the clay work there was supposed to be a ring on the middle leg and the chiefs told me for Otumfuo nothing must be left out so we had to add to that,” he recalls.

Critiques of the work though have praised the occiput, the cloth and ornaments adorning the statue, their major concern has been the face.

But how is such a colossal art appreciated? A figurine more than four times the average human height.

Dr Mantey Jectey-Nyarko of KNUST Department of Painting and Sculpture says an individual’s point of view is crucial in appreciating work of art.

“When you look at a picture from underneath, depending on the height, it appears very elongated.

If you look at an angle far above, it will be squashed so the face and the whole thing reduces.”

“The best angle to look at a statue is the normal eye level which is just about 15 or 20 degrees either up or below the eye level. Anything below will be a distortion, “he emphasized.

“It’s normal and not strange at all with the comments we are having from people,” Mr Abuatey acknowledges.

Otumfuo’s statue adds to many such works of art around the globe.

The likes of Statue of Unity in India and Martin Luther King Jr in the US and recently Mahatma Gandhi in Ghana to be subject for widespread criticism.

Already some are calling for the decapitation of the statue.

Will chiefs or Contracta take back their words or Ghanaians would have to be taught how to appreciate art?

Of course, Art will always be Art.