Existing Otherwise as an exhibition is inspired by the book “Wayward lives, Beautiful Experiments”  Solvej

Story By: Rahamatu-Lahi Zakaria || Sanatu Zambang

In a Conversation with Solvej Helweg Ovesen || Sanatu Zambang Facebook Live

Existing Otherwise as an exhibition climax in Tamale, Ghana, at the Savannah Centre for Contemporary Art (SCCA) opened in January 2022 and runs through to May 30th 2022. It is a yearlong exhibition and art project based on the idea that we do not want to return to any “normality” as it were before the corona crisis. The artists Isabel Lewis (The Institute for Embodied Creative Practices, Callie’s, Berlin) and Ibrahim Mahama (Savannah Centre for Contemporary Art/ SCCA, Tamale) were invited by artistic director Solvej Helweg Ovesen to co-curate and co-host the project already in 2020.

During a Facebook live interaction with Solvej Helweg Ovesen, she mentions the idea behind the title for the exhibition and how the team adopted it. According to Solvej, Isabel Lewis introduced the book, “Wayward lives, Beautiful Experiments” by Saidiya Hartman to the team:

‘’The term “Existing Otherwise” is borrowed from “Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments – Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women and Queer Radicals”t. It is about the idea that young Afro American women in the early 20th century USA were radical thinkers and doers who constantly imagined other ways to live, how to exist otherwise.  This book was introduced to us by choreographer and artist Isabel Lewis, our co-curator.”  

Isabel Lewis as an artist and curator works with how we design relations and create space for intimacies with art and audiences and reconnect people during and after the lockdown time. Meanwhile, Ibrahim Mahama as you know him as an artist is working with the transformation of space through the material and reusing materials to create something new. His conviction on how to use space and create new spaces changed the atmosphere of the whole exhibition and was very important as a curatorial gesture.

With this background, the curatorial team have been working with all the 16 invited artists to form visions of how we can exist otherwise, materially and relationally. But they also look at how lockdown impacts the art sector and how we can form new ways of existing otherwise. 

Solvej also talks of the potential Tamale has in terms of development looking at the people’s  – both the SCCA team and the visitors – attitude and how that can translate into new beginnings and adventures. She acknowledges the role that Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology is playing in developing student talents in the art field by empowering them to have a voice in not only the African but the global context. 

‘’Here in Tamale, you have a lot of space and there is potential for development and testing of art and new artistic languages because there is another kind of freedom including hands, people, drive to help realise experimental projects. There is a lot of goodwill and of course the patronage and the entrepreneurial work of Ibrahim and his team which I think is key in sustaining and curating the SCCA space and also thinking about the scale and dimension of the exhibitions and installations. There is a very impressive amount of visitors, especially schools, who learn through art. Different age visitors in Tamale that basically inspires the artists and us as curators deeply,’’ She reflects.

As an artistic director Solvej says the Berlin team was really impressed with the whole institution and infrastructure they met in Tamale and the team in Tamale was awesome. According to her, the whole Berlin team of artists and curators have been longing for a certain space and certain kind of freedom to operate. 

‘’I was really inspired by all the artist participations in Existing Otherwise, and their engagement and how their work speaks directly to the theme in Tamale. This project is really special and existing otherwise as an idea really fits Tamale – as the works speak about experimenting with the freedom you might find as a woman, as someone who looks after the environment or creates alternative spaces.”’’ 

With regards to Ghana and especially women artists thriving, this is what she had to say, 

‘’I am convinced that the global art scene is very interested in what the Ghanaian artists have to contribute. For the future, I am convinced that more female artists should and will have the chance to develop their artwork and positions. I think we right now have the chance to support and promote more women to make a career in the creative field. I am also seeing that international projects need to be more sustainable and we need to develop them long term in order to generate more impact and deeper exchanges’’.

Artists in “Existing Otherwise – the Future of Coexistence” in SCCA, Red Clay and Nkrumah Volini – 30.5.2022: Ana Alenso (VZ), Ato Jackson (GH), Bernard Akoi-Jackson (GH), Cecilia Vicuña (CL), Eli Cortiñas (ES), Emily Hunt (AU), Ernest Sackitey (GH), Hannah Toticki(DK), Jem Bendell (GB), Rosemary Esinam Damalie (GH), Rüzgâr Buşki (TR), Sarah Ama Duah (DE), Sandra Kyeraa (GH), Selom Kudjie (GH), Sikarnt Skoolisariyaporn (TH), Tracy Naa Koshie Thompson (GH)Artistic Director of Existing Otherwise & Galerie Wedding, Berlin, Germany, Solvej Helweg Ovesen, Co-curator, founder SCCA, Tamale, Ghana, Ibrahim Mahama, Curatorial advisor, founder The Institute of Embodied Creative Practises, Berlin, Germany Isabel Lewis

Existing Otherwise – For a New Politics of the Senses is funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, kindly supported by the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program with Funds of the Federal Foreign Office and executed and directed by XO Curatorial Projects (Kathrin Pohlmann & Solvej Helweg Ovesen) in close collaboration with Galerie Wedding – Space for Contemporary Art, Berlin, The Institute for Embodied Creative Practices, Berlin and Savannah Centre for Contemporary Art (SCCA), Tamale.

The current extension of “Existing Otherwise” in Galerie Wedding, Berlin with Ama Duah and Ato Jackson until 26.3.2022: 

Over the past 6 months, Sarah Ama Duah and Ato Jackson, have produced their artworks on the subject of ‘existing otherwise’ in both Ghana and Germany. From an intimate exploration of how online activities and “socialising” affect our daily lives, habits and poses, to the public debate on postcolonial monuments and their necessary exchange, the two artists approach the theme of “existing otherwise” from different angles. They share an inert curiosity about contemporary visual culture, the influence of ethical and digital shifts in portraiture, performativity, and posing in public situations.


Read Previous

YOPP holds international sports convening in Tamale.

Read Next

Akwaabagh.com Sets to Unveil National Media Dialogue with Experts (NAMDEX 2022) Summit