Accra’s marginalized integrate their community through art

Laura Puttkamer, Accra Community Manager
Accra, 5 August 2016

Nima is a low-income neighbourhood in Accra and is nearly 80% Muslim. Many of Nima’s residents come from Northern Ghana where Islam is more widespread. However, Nima is multi-ethnical and overpopulated. It is often understood as a “zongo,” a migrant city within the city where Islam traditionally prevails. There are several such zongos in Accra, all of them marginalized and in many ways excluded from civic life.

In 2011, three artists from Nima founded Nima Muhinmanchi Art (“muhinmanchi” describes the importance of art in Hausa), an arts collective and NGO based in Nima. Their street art projects are very successful and gain a lot of media attention. NMA is now also active in other Ghanaian cities and plans to expand to other African countries soon.

Their aim is to unite their community regardless of ethnic or religious belonging and to contradict stereotypes that many people have of Nima. Sometimes, being from Nima can prove to be a stigma in getting a job. NMA focuses on working with children and teenagers, teaching them marketable skills such as painting, photographing and writing. The works of art that are created in NMA’s workshops are exhibited throughout the community. Starting out with individual happenings like painting a mural in the neighbourhood, NMA is now offering regular art workshops for youth in the Nima Community Library every Saturday. The mentors from NMA teach the students different techniques and also explore other media and technologies. The focus is on fostering the students’ creativity and self-confidence. One of NMA’s mottos is “From Nothing to Something” along with “Recreate Spaces, Perceptions & Societies through Art & Culture.”

In an interview for URB.im, one representative from NMA said, "The whole community rallies behind NMA because we serve as a mouthpiece by representing, presenting and protecting the interest of the entire Nima community through our street art programs. … Our vision for NIMA community is very broad but to mention the few is to foster unity among ourselves, change the negative perception towards Nima, recreate spaces into artistic centers, create more employment for creative minds and connect them to the global art community."

When asked about the diversity of Nima, they replied, "We live in unity and harmony as one people. We believe religion is very important but it should be our personal business that should govern our personal lives, our personal morals. … So NMA is just an art organization that deals solely with art but not a religious organization. Therefore, our mission is to promote art and culture of our own to the world."

While it took some time until NMA was accepted and truly understood by the community, they now are a very popular organization and have gained support from donors like the pharmaceutical company BASF and from crowd-funding. Constant media attention, a very active Facebook site and increased tourism has helped to promote NMA’S cause. NMA is also part of Accra’s popular Chale Wote Festival, an art festival that is taking place once a year. In 2016, Chale Wote takes place from August 18-21.

Through street art, the artists of NMA hope to achieve a lot, such as providing education to Nima’s youth and addressing the many prejudices that there are against the people from this “zongo.” While this discrimination might not exactly be a taboo, it is still a very important issue that NMA with the help of Chale Wote Festival are tackling by creative use of murals and other forms of street art.

Photo Credit: Nima Muhinmanchi Art

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