My first direct encounter with the kiosk was earlier this year. ANO’s current primary research project is a pan-African online and multi-volume Cultural Encyclopaedia. I am collecting formal knowledge, as well as more informal knowledge in the form of oral histories, material objects, and old photographs. The museum in the Ghanaian, and wider African context, is a problematic interpreter of cultural heritage and knowledge. The National Museum in Accra is, apart from the occasional tourist, hardly visited, and its public display seems irrelevant and unrepresentative of the cultural wealth inherent in the country. What then would be a form more suited to our context that would not alienate, but rather welcome people to explore its contents? The kiosk with its total accessibility and multi-purpose use seemed the perfect vehicle, not only for collecting materials, but to exhibit and interact with communities as it travels across the country.
At the Chale Wote festival in August 2015, the theme was African Electronics and historical, creative innovations and their contemporary permutations. I created the Living History Hub filled with photographs, objects, contextualisations and a film I made, documenting the festivals, rites, and social realities of Jamestown, the raw and vibrant commercial and fishing centre where the festival takes place. I called it Agbako, which means, Untold, in the Ga language, to represent the many histories that are not absent, but merely hidden or unexpounded.
It was created in collaboration with the architect DK Osseo Asare, who is also part of this publication and exhibition. He has long been fascinated by the structure of the kiosk, and has designed several microstructures, that reinterpret its form in economical and environmentally friendly ways.
These mini-typologies include bamboo kiosks, solar power, water collection and purification strategies, and come together in a manifesto he terms Africentricity, based on the everyday reality of how we use the city.
It also includes Yaw Kyei Brobbey, an MFA student at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, whose work I first came across last year, and who I have been in conversation with since.
I was fascinated by the almost scientific taxonomy he was creating of the form of the kiosk, repeatedly capturing its singular forms, mimicking the repetitive appearance of kiosks within the urban landscape; drawing with felt on cardboard, sometimes still stained from their former use, to reflect the crude, makeshift nature of the kiosk, as well as the found nature of the materials that go into making them.
It was my meeting with Latifah Idriss, a BSC architecture student at KNUST, and her synchronistic engagement with the kiosk form that was the catalyst for this, ANO’s first production and manifestation in its new home. She spoke of architecture as sculpture, evolving into habitable forms, to meet the needs of its environment and culture, as well as their essence and personality.
Her travels across the country documented the kiosk’s different usages, – commercial, domestic, and hybrid; and her renderings imagined future, aesthetically innovative versions of the kiosk.
A specially designed soundscape was created and performed by Sound Artist Lawrence Baganiah, made up of layers of kiosk sounds and ambience. Mixes of found and recorded sounds spliced market sellers, car mechanics, footsteps, bird chirps, industrial machines, national speeches, high life music, etc. Baganiah’s live operations borrow from DJ aesthetics and techniques while grunts, low rustles, carnal moans, earthly whistles, flow out of objects and reverberate across walls.