Stories of migration are rooted deep in our traditional and political histories. Many aspects of our different cultures intertwine at a point. This makes it clearly evident that there was an interaction/relationship between different ethnic groups and countries through migration and trade. In as much as there are documentations of colonial migrations, there are many untold stories of internal ethnic migrations. One from these many untold stories is about some families of James Town (former British Accra) migrating to Labadi, their current settlement. Among the many families who migrated was the Clottey Family.
Before their migration, the Clottey family traded in alcohol and meat with the people of Labadi. The business transactions were always conducted on the shores of Labadi. As time went on they became well-known in the La community, and so they decided to settle at La. Due to their honesty and business relationship, the chief of La gave them a piece of land. Now the family has integrated and become part of the people of Labadi.
Contemporary Ghanaian Artist Serge Attukwei Clottey, on a mission to make a public lecture on the migration of his family from James Town to Labadi has created a performance installation with his GoLokal crew. The group noted for making public protest on issues like illegal mining by the Chinese, and using youth as Political puppets, will re-enact the unchronicled trade and migration stories of the Clottey Family on the Labadi beach, behind the Artists Alliance Gallery, where the businesses took place in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The performance titled “The Displaced” also highlights the advantages and disadvantages of migration using the history of his family. It deals with questions like how migration affects our lives in terms of trade, fashion, and domestic interactions.
For undocumented stories like that of the migration and trade of the Clottey Family to be documented in any form now, one must have an in depth background to the story. Especially told by a person who either witnessed the movement or has first-hand information to it. Attukwei was able to appropriately accomplish just that, by means of using experimental performance art to tell the migration story of his family.
The costumes used for the performance are in a traditional avant-garde style. Wearing tattered shorts with fishing nets covering their bodies, GoLokal stood in front of Nii Tetteh Nteni We house: “the very first building that was put up by the James Town people when the settled in Labadi,” and home of the artist.This caught the curiosity of people in the Labadi Community; an unconventional smartness the artist uses to get his community to get them involved in his working process as he leads them into the world he’s creating. And With many people gathering in front of Attukwei’s house to experience and see the work at close at range, the artist led his GoLokal team to pour libation and said some incantations to invite “gods and ancestors to guide and protect them as they embarked on the journey.” A necessary ritual the fisher folk and travellers performed before they left for sea.
In traditional Ghanaian settings, old women are believed to be the wisest in the society. So if one has the blessing of the old women in the clan, it is believed that he/she will succeed in whatever they do. Keeping with this tradition, during the performance, before they left for the shores of the sea where some of the Afrogallonism sculptures and other art works by Attukwei were displayed, an old woman gave them her blessings and wished them well. Other rituals like walking on their knees to the boat were also performed at the shores. This was representative of their struggles before the journey as well as a sign of equality among the sailors who went to sea, and returned to the shores as merchants with alcohol and meat to trade.
The displaced performance and installation showcases the economic strength and political realities that influenced the relationships between traditional societies in the 17th and 18th centuries. This performance and installation further highlights Serge Attukwei Clottey as a contemporary artist whose art is embedded in community crusading, raising the level of political and environmental consciousness, and telling the traditional history of his people.
You can learn more about The Displaced and or Serge Attukwei Clottey, here
Text by Nana Osei Kwadwo
Photos by Francis Kokoroko