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Last modified: Monday, August 20, 2012

Ghanaian film poster exhibition brings 'movie shack' experience to life on IU campus

Aug. 20, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The lurid, hand-painted posters advertising Bollywood, Kung Fu and science fiction films were meant to do one thing: draw crowds to Ghana's improvised movie theaters in the 1980s and 1990s.

Gargantuan Godzilla Poster

Posters such as this will be on display at the Grunwald Gallery of Art during the "Axe of Vengeance: Ghanaian Film Posters and Film Viewing Culture" exhibition.

Print-Quality Photo

But the images painted on flour sacks were also thick with cultural meaning, emphasizing the battle between good and evil, tradition and modernity, and magic and Christianity during a time when the Pentecostal religion was growing as the country experienced political and economic crisis.

While in-home film viewing has since made these posters and the venues where they were shown obsolete, the ethnographic art form and films of the era are the focus of "Axe of Vengeance: Ghanaian Film Posters and Film Viewing Culture," an exhibition and short film series sponsored by the Grunwald Gallery of Art and IU Cinema.

"I am thrilled about this unique exhibit because of the honesty and originality of the work," said Jeremy Sweet, Grunwald Gallery of Art associate director. "The artists of the African 'movie shack' phenomenon have created an odd and beautiful depiction and translation of cinema art and culture that cannot be missed."

The exhibition opens with a gallery talk by Chicago gallery owner Glen Joffe at 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24, at the Grunwald Gallery. Joffe loaned the posters for the exhibition, which is on view through Sept. 15.

Inside the gallery, the exhibition will feature a re-creation of a traditional Ghanaian space in which such films would have been viewed. The intimate, brightly colored space will be constructed of found materials and contain a television and VCR, allowing visitors to view films such as "Isakaba Boys," "Secret Adventure" and "The Snake Girl" in an authentic environment.

In addition, IU Cinema will show two films on its big screen:

  • 6:30 p.m. Sept. 9, "Black Is Black: Mamma Mia." Trouble ensues after a wealthy foreigner arrives in Ghana with loads of cash and a limousine.
  • 9:30 p.m. Sept. 15, "Oganigwa." Villagers call on their deity for a ruling after the village prince chooses a maiden of low lineage for his wife.

Film screenings at the cinema are free but ticketed. Tickets are available from the IU Auditorium Box Office; one hour before any cinema screening; or online. Admission is free to the Grunwald Gallery, which is open noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

The exhibition is sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences Themester, the College Arts and Humanities Institute, the Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts, Department of History, the African Studies Program and the Black Film Center/Archive.