Emerging Ghanaian artist Hamid Nii Nortey has released 20 new figurative paintings of glamorous city scenes that reflect the changing urban and social landscape of Ghana's capital, Accra. It's a place that has seen a huge transformation in recent decades, one that Nortey now hopes to shine a light on while dispelling any outdated narratives of Africa.
On show at the local ADA \ contemporary art gallery until 16 June, the series, Cross Hatching Affluence, looks to the modern inhabitants of the city as reflections of these changes, offering a visual snapshot into the growing middle- and upper-class elite that has come to represent an increasing share of Accra, as well as Ghana's and the broader African continent's population.
"Over the years, the influx of corporate and government investment in real estate, resort development, transport, communication, industrialisation and education has led to a tremendous increase in urbanisation of most cities in the country," Nortey tells Creative Boom. "Modern architectural designs and decor have uplifted the face of the city. That is not to say that there are no socioeconomic challenges, but there has been drastic economic, and social, development in recent years. This development has resulted in a tangible change, progress, in the lifestyle of the Ghanaian people – in particular, that of middle and upper-middle-class elites."
Interpreting the rich fabric of Accra's cityscape, Nortey's paintings depict sweeping urban scenes of expansive buildings and pleasing interiors, and show a love of architecture as he focuses on the lines and compositions of his imagined scenes.
Using a hatching drawing technique to add texture and dimension to each character's skin, Nortey's attention to detail is inspired by realism and the Dutch post-impressionist, Vincent van Gogh – perhaps looking to the rough brushstrokes of Starry Night, as his muse.
There's also an impressionist colour palette at play. From sienna brown to burnt orange, the hatched paintings convey the tactile qualities of natural skin while making them lifelike and lively, drawing us in with their appealing warmth.
"Weaving his figures into his dazzling urban landscapes, Nortey invites his viewers to step into the lush narratives of the glamorous and successful," says the Gallery. "In shedding a light onto the physical landscape and material markers of Ghana's evolving society, they become the basis for the artist's visual storytelling, at the border between the physical, the real, and the story and broader narrative, the fictional."
The series offers, as Nortey puts it, a "new display of the 'spectacle of Black wealth'," and a "cross-hatching of Ghanaian and African affluence". It's as though his paintings seek to overthrow those clichéd and often ignorant preconceptions about the African continent, "hereby reclaiming ownership over them and affirming a sense of both pride and hope".
Nortey adds: "It feels satisfying to know that through this body of work, a different perspective on the lives of people in Africa, specifically Ghana, is narrated to the world; so that a global audience can see, albeit in passing, through my works, that the Africa that is shown is not the Africa that is known."
Cross Hatching Affluence by Hamid Nii Nortey will be on display at ADA \ contemporary art gallery until 16 June 2021, as part of an ongoing programme to support emerging artists. Follow more of the artist's work on Instagram.