Arts View

Mar 2024 – May 2024

Stanley Afful - 'Kwesi the Artist'

Stanley Afful - 'Kwesi the Artist', Multi-disciplinary Artist

Cape Coast, Ghana

Born in Saltpond and raised in Mankessim, Central Region, Ghana, Kwesi is the eldest of eight children. Mostly self-taught, he has no certificates in art. He obtained a BA in African Studies from the university of Cape Coast, Ghana in 2023.

Kwesi is currently performing ‘National Service’ which lasts for a year where he serves as a research/lecturer’s assistant. On completion of ‘National Service’ he intends to continue his education.

AGN; In terms of your output, why do you operate across the creative spectrum?

SA; I don’t feel one needs to restrict oneself in terms of one’s creative output. At variance to the expression ‘A Jack of All Trades and a Master of None’, I feel I defy that saying by being professional across all the disciplines I operate. Having said that, my specialism is photography.

AGN; Why the specialism in photography?

SA; Difficult childhood experiences led me to photography. Through it I was able to find a voice both for myself and for others on whose behalf I went on to advocate.

AGN; When did you realise you have a gift where photography is concerned?

SA; Initially I used my phone to take pictures and I would post on Instagram along with fictional stories, or about actual events and issues. When I realized the engagement my work generated, it became apparent that I could do something many others appreciate.

I felt my style of photography was quite unique; both in terms of how I shoot and in my post-production process. Since then, I have been recognised by several bodies for my work.

One of the standout moments so far is being shortlisted as one of the top 15 photographers in the world by the ‘World Intellectual Property Organisation’ (WIPO) for the WIPO Photography Prize for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Youth 2023.

AGN; You have been on this creative journey for a little while. Journeys tend to have their ups and downs. What has been the low-point of your career to date?

SA; My output is heavily driven by my personal emotions. A lot of my work is very subjective, however, when I experience low points, it becomes very hard to produce any work.

A depressed mood typically corresponds to a low point in my output. Such depressed periods could be due to numerous situations or factors so there isn’t a specific low point I can highlight.


AGN; Change is constant. What is far easier for artists in Ghana to do now in comparison to when you were starting out?

SA; It has become far easier to receive moral support and recognition due to the prevalence of social media and a change in attitude towards photography.

Both my grandfather and father were photographers; they struggled to get much recognition or interest in their work. In their time, photography wasn’t considered that worthwhile as an art form. In the comparatively short period of being a professional photographer, I have noticed the increasing interest in this art form.

AGN; Your father wasn’t in favour of you pursuing an artistic path. How did you get him on board with your decision to pursue your passion?

SA; While at high school, due to my father’s reluctance for me to study art I undertook a course of study that was more general. It covered history, religious studies, economics, and government.

After high school I went on to secure a job at a bank. An experience there led me to the view that working for others is not the best path for me and that it is better for me to work for myself.

While at university I decided to bite the bullet and pursue my passion for art on the side in order to set the foundation for creating my own business and to also fulfil what I consider to be my purpose.
Since I was studying a course my father was happy with, my artistic pursuits didn’t appear to ruffle any feathers.

Later, when he saw how well I was doing he became one of my most ardent supporters. In a nutshell it has been a gradual process for him to come around to accepting me as an artist.

AGN; How would you describe the current state of the arts industry in Ghana and what changes would you like to see within it for it to be a better version of itself?

SA; As I intimated earlier, there is greater appreciation for photography these days. This applies to art in general in comparison to when I was young. More artists are making waves, more exhibition spaces are being established. I would say the arts industry here is undergoing a period of modest expansion.

However, I feel the government could do more to help nurture young artists and to spearhead a greater focus on art in the curriculum.

AGN; What was life like for you growing up?

SA; I had a non-standard upbringing which presents challenges associated with moving between parents. I was raised in a mega family i.e. with lots of extended family around, this made me feel I didn’t get the individual attention I might otherwise have had if my parents had been together. On a positive note, it made me more self-reliant and adaptable.

AGN; How would you describe your personality?

SA; I am an ambivert. At times I can be quite lively while at other times I can be non-engaging. Overall, I am quite intentional and hence I am very careful with my words. At times I can be quite imposing but that is something I am learning to moderate in order better maximise the output from working collaboratively with others.

AGN; What makes you laugh?

SA; I find being around people with a great sense of humour particularity elevating. There isn’t any one thing I can point to as such. If a story or situation tickles me, I laugh.

AGN; What is your biggest strength?

SA; I would say my intellect is my biggest asset, paired with a sense of open-mindedness.

AGN; What do you like to do in your down time?

SA; I like to read and sing. Gaming is also something that I like to do at times..

AGN; Is there a key desire you have that is largely unfulfilled?

SA; I would like to travel a lot more internationally in order to connect with people from different cultural backgrounds.

AGN; Is there anything you would like to add?

SA; In so far as Africa is concerned, I feel we live in a time where we don’t listen to each other enough across diverse societal lines, i.e. we tend to find it challenging to see things through the lens of others. I hope my work will help to broaden mindsets and facilitate more meaningful dialogue and engagement.

Previous ‘Arts View’ interviews are available here; archive

Ri Iyovwaye

© 2024 All rights reserved

on behalf of African Global Networks (AGN) – Mar 2024