With Bernard Akoi-Jackson, Dorothy Akpene Amenuke, Serge Clottey, Zachary Formwait, Iris Kensmil, Aukje Koks, Navid Nuur, Jeremiah Quarshie, kąrĩ’kąchä seid’ou, Katarina Zdjelar.

A most remarkable and charming exposition organized by the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam in collaboration with the Nubuke Foundation, Accra, Ghana  just opened last weekend here in Amsterdam.

I was mostly intrigued by the photographic work of Bernard Akoi-Jackson and by the video ‘My Lifetime (Malaika) by Katarina Zdjelar. The video is neither a portrait of the musicians, nor is it a documentary about the National Symphony Orchestra of Ghana. With great sensitivity Zdjelar rather deploys the orchestra in order to draw a sketch of a complicated state of affairs in which grand ideas and the mechanism of a nation state takes root in and affects individuals. Zdjelar’s ‘My Lifetime (Malaika) video directs attention to the discrepancy between the fact that, on one hand, the Western musical tradition has never fully become part of Ghanaian culture and, on the other, the fact that the Ghanaian state continues sponsoring a national symphony orchestra.

Most musicians are working hard to scrape together a living during daytime so it’s hard for some to keep up with the intense rehearsing schedule after work. The images of ‘My Lifetime (Malaika)’ show musicians sometimes so tired that they doze asleep during their long wait to blow a few notes on their shattered instruments. Funny and tragic at the same time…

Time, Trade &Travel -K. Zdjelar -My Lifetime (Malaika) video 2012

The song ‘Malaika’ is a African song written by Fadhili Williams and made famous by Miriam Makeba, Boney M and most recently by Angélique Kidjo who sang it at the kick-off concert of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

Malaika -lyrics

Malaika, nakupenda Malaika
Malaika, nakupenda Malaika
Ningekuoa mali we, ningekuoa dada
Nashindwa na mali sina we, Ningekuoa Malaika Nashindwa na mali sina we, Ningekuoa Malaika
Pesa zasumbua roho yangu
Pesa zasumbua roho yangu
Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio
Nashindwa na mali sina we Ningekuoa Malaika.Nashindwa na mali sina we Ningekuoa Malaika
Kidege, hukuwaza kidege
Kidege, hukuwaza kidege
Ningekuoa mali we, ningekuoa dada
Nashindwa na mali sina, we Ningekuoa Malaika

the complexities of global exchange

Grouping the works of Dutch and Ghanese artists under the sweeping exhibition title ‘Time Trade & Travel ‘ is a curatorial decision that points to the collaboration’s extended focus on the complexities of global exchange fostered by capitalism and its effects on life and art.

‘Time Trade & Travel ‘launched the participating artists on a quest into the historical encounters between Europeans and Africans, a quest in which trading and the cultural exchange receive particular attention. The exhibition functions as a platform for the presentation of their artistic inquiries into pre-colonial trade and colonial legacies and their traces in continuing imperialistic relations. The exhibition does not shy away from looking at the harrowing aspects of these relations, but does not focus solely on them. In the works of Iris Kensmil and Bernard Akoi-Jackson for instance, the practice of slavery is consciously touched upon from an accentual temporal distance.

Bernard Akoi-Jackson -Dutchman

Just like Iris Kensmil and Bernard Akoi-Jackson, who indirectly deal with the legacy of slavery in divergent ways, Serge Clottey and Jeremiah Quarshie, the youngest participants in this exhibition, touch upon the issue of slavery as a present-day phenomenon. They presuppose that forms of slavery continue to take place in form of dubious employment contracts from which the one party profits more than the other, and under which people are evaluated differently on the basis of their descent. In this sense, the colonial system that divided people into civilized and uncivilized continues to exist, albeit in altered, contempary forms.

Just look at the most recent bloody uprising of miners in South Africa or the inhuman treatment of Indonesian  house-servants in countries like Saudi-Arabia. Various forms of slavery still take unexpected turns even in our modern ‘liberated’ times.

Bernard Akoi-Jackson -Greyman

The exhibition ‘Time Trade & Travel’ not only shows the result of a soul-diggin’ journey throughout Ghana and it’s former colonial oppressors but touches the difficulties that are grounded in the fact that colonial and local structures have become intermingled in such complicated ways that at times it is impossible to distinguish them from each other.

Time Trade & Travel -25th August – 21 October 2012

Rozenstraat 59 1016 NN Amsterdam, The Netherlands

‘Time Trade & Travel’ is to be seen at the Nubuke Foundation, Accra, Ghana from 25th November 2012 to February 2013


For overviews and more background information on the exhibition see


this article contains excerpts from Newsletter Nr. 129, Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam

2 thoughts on “Time, Trade & Travel -new exhibition in Amsterdam/Accra

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