41.Hand-painted film posters, Ghana

Pop-up movie screenings using VHS video tapes were fashionable in the west African country of Ghana through the 1980s and 1990s. Hanging in the 3F alcove (behind the naked mannequin enduring the ‘wooden horse’ brothel torture) are several hand-painted posters from this period.

Carrying a TV, video deck and tapes, the projectionists travelled from town to town, village to village, showing movies from studios in Ghana, the US and other countries. For promotion, and in the absence of large inkjet printers, the movie posters were commissioned from local signwriters. They painted on the backs of woven jute flour sacks, and hung them on walls and street corners. One problem was that almost none of the artists could view the films in advance, so the depictions were left to their imaginations. The results were sometimes comical, sometimes grotesquely exaggerated and far removed from the film’s actual content. But the posters attracted their own following, and popular artists began opening their own studios.

Mobile cinema ended in the 2000s with the advent of DVDs and the internet, which encouraged people to enjoy films at home. The painters continued with their former jobs as signwriters, or moved to workshops producing items such as unique Ghanaian decorative coffins in forms such as animals, cars and aeroplanes.

A turning point came in 2006, when a feature about the posters in British art magazine Mollusk seized the attention of international art fans. In the 2010s, certain galleries in Chicago began commissioning, exhibiting and selling re-productions, as well as posters by new Ghanaian artists. The works on display in this small room were also acquired from those galleries.