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On October 15 in Accra, Ghana, art advisor Adora Mba opens the new art space, ADA contemporary art gallery. Focused on representing emerging creatives whose practices highlight the African legacy, the gallery’s inaugural exhibition is a show of works by Nigerian artist Collins Obijiaku.
Obijiaku’s show “Gindin Mangoro: Under the Mango Tree” features 17 new paintings that explore ideas of Blackness, lived experience, identity, and interiority. To learn about the show, open through November 19, and the gallery’s mission, Whitewall spoke to Mba.
WHITEWALL: What is your vision for ADA contemporary art gallery? What is its mission?
ADORA MBA: ADA is committed to nurturing not only Ghana’s art market but also the continent’s contemporary art community while fostering its ties and influence amongst global audiences. My long-term vision is for ADA to grow into the go-to space and reference when it comes to contemporary African art, no matter where in the world you may be.
WW: What was the process of opening a new art space under the restrictions of a global pandemic? Did you come across many challenges?
AM: The space was actually originally set to open in March 2020 and was postponed due to the global pandemic. Upon reflection, I feel that it has been rather a blessing as this global “shut-down” gave me and the artists with whom I work more time to think through and elaborate our exhibitions and overall program. On a human level, it also gave me a chance to truly get to know them, albeit digitally.
The only challenges, if any, have been related to travel, as I would have cherished the opportunity to meet the artists in person and spend time with them in their studios. As for the opening, I am hoping that peers and friends who live abroad will be able to attend the event, but we shall see how it all evolves.
WW: What kind of tone do you want to set with the inaugural exhibition with Collins Obijiaku, “Gindin Mangoro: Under the Mango Tree”?
AM: It almost feels like a coming-out debutante ball. This first exhibition is indeed setting the tone for a dense program of upcoming shows—all in all, alerting the world that we are here and that we are ready.
With regard to the physical exhibition, this objective manifests itself in the arrangement of the space, which has been entirely transformed. ADA Creative Director Leroy Wadie and I have vowed never to simply maintain the gallery as a “white cube.” Our aim is to constantly innovate, revisit the space, and make each exhibition a new experience that both fits and elevates the artist’s work.
WW: Your exhibitions will extend online, as well as holding them in person. What will that look like?
AM: We made this decision in response to the current digital demand. We want everyone to feel connected to the gallery no matter where they may be. As such, each exhibition will extend online, complementing the physical experience with a multifaceted immersion into each artist’s practice through virtual viewing rooms, personal sketches, and videos.
WW: What connects your roster of artists?
AM: All artists represented by ADA are extremely talented in technical terms. They have strong, engaged, and singular points of view which they communicate through their art. Moreover, they are all at the very early stages of their artistic careers, which gives us the opportunity to grow and evolve together.
WW: How would you describe your ideal gallerist/artist relationship?
AM: To me, transparency is essential to a gallerist/artist relationship. I do not conceal anything from the artists, and I do expect the same in return. Every aspect of our partnership involves full knowledge of the circumstances when making a decision. This, of course, implies a high level of trust, which is necessary when working together in the long run.
WW: How would you describe the collector community in Accra?
AM: The collector community in Accra is ambitious and growing. It is in its infancy as compared to other neighboring countries, but its potential is palpable. Recently, I have seen increasing amounts of Ghanaian collectors wanting information on artists and acquiring works. It is exciting as a strong local collector base is essential to the development and durable perennity of Ghana’s art market.
WW: Can you share details on your forthcoming plans for the 2021 residency?
AM: The specifics of the residency have yet to be confirmed, but I can surely share that ADA will develop an annual residency program, bringing together a local Ghanaian artist and an international artist whose practice is rooted in Africa and its legacy—be it personal, cultural, political.
For one month, the residents are invited to invest the gallery’s studio space in Accra while experiencing the rich local cultural scene, both traditional and contemporary. Cultivating a two-sided dialogue between the local and the international, whereby both artists and communities learn and grow from one another, the residency is a manifest to ADA ’s engagement in strengthening these ties and to ultimately establishing Ghana’s striving, yet to be discovered artistic scene and market internationally.
In practical terms, the residency will take place over the summer, in August, and end with a group show in early September in time for the post-summer return of the international art market.