Until the recent Ghana Jubilee edition of the National Festival of Arts and Culture in Kumasi, businessman Sammy Williams was still not sure of his effort to produce statues and busts of prominent Ghanaians and other world leaders was being appreciated in high government circles.
He had the chance to show President Kufuor round the exhibition he mounted at the festival and he has been in a buoyant mood since then. His special sense of elation stems from the president expressing delight at the works and encouraging him to persist with his vision.
Williams vision, since 1973 when he first visited the famous Madame Tussauds wax museum on Marylebone Road in London, has been to also create a museum to house lifesize statues and busts of famous Africans and world personalities. This has led him to form a company, Golden Age Hall of Fame Ghana Ltd., to pursue his dream.
“My initial instinct, when I first saw the statues at Madame Tussauds, was that those things could be done in Ghana at an easy cheaper cost. The idea kept haunting me until I got the first bust made about 12 years later”.
Since then, Williams has persisted at commissioning busts from a variety of sculptors from across the country and has exhibited them at a number of venues in the nation’s capital including the International trade Fair Centre, National Museum and the International Press Centre.
Though not an artist, Williams says he has a sharp eye for things that work and can tell at a glance if the right resemblance has been arrived at during the making of the busts. His big collection, 50 of which were
shown at NAFAC 2007, includes busts of the Big Six, all past Ghanaian Heads of State, President Kufuor, Abedi Pele, Michael Essien, Stephen Appiah, Kofi Annan, Bill Clinton, Queen Elizabeth II, Maharma Ghandi
and Somaro Machell.
It is impossible to talk to Williams without him referring intermittently to Madame Tussauds. It is obvious his inspiration stems from the wax museum that has grown to become a major tourist attraction in London and has branches in Amsterdam, Las Vegas, New York City, Hong Kong, and Shangai.
Wax figures at Tussauds include historical and royal figures, film stars, sports stars and famous murderers. The personalities include Kwame Nkrumah, Benazie Bhutto, Beyonce Knowles, Nelson Mandela, Britney Spears, George Bush, Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, Spice Girls, Will Smith and Oprah Winfrey.
Williams says he has it on authority that a delegation from Madame Tussauds has been to Ghana to negotiate for the setting up of a wax museum here. According to him, it would be a waste of essential state resources if Madame Tussauds is asked to make statues of our heroes and heroines for us since his outfit has shown that it is capable of doing that.
It costs Williams about GH¢1,500 to create a bust from scratch to finish. Asked how he hopes to recoup all the money he has spent so far on the project, he said making money is not his initial motivation but hopes to secure a permanent location for the works where people would pay to see them. His big dream is that just like how Madame Tussauds has become a big tourist attraction and spread its wings to some key cities around the world, his collection would also grow and become a big earner from tourism.
The status Madame Tussauds stocks are adorned in real clothes and wigs whiles what Williams’ outfit creates are mostly painted. The lifesize statue of President Kufuor in the Kumasi exhibition was however, draped in kente.
When planning for the Kumasi exhibition, Williams placed advertisements in the newspapers for sculptors and was surprised at the number of people who responded. He worked with a number of them to meet the target he had set for the festival and wants to sponsor a few of them to Madame Tussauds and the New York wax museum to understudy operations there.
Williams is from Gomoa-Feteh but grew up in Accra and Kumasi. He is very optimistic about setting up nationwide, a chain of museums that will immortalize in stone and wax, memories of Ghanaian and international achievers. To him, that would be a big source of inspiration for generations to come.
“It is time now to use the unique and impressionable means of a hall of fame to recognize the achievements of our industrious sons and daughters since a nation that does not honour its heroes is not worth dying for”, Williams said.
GRAPHIC SHOWBIZ - Thursday, Nov. 29, - Dec. 5, 2007 Pages: 8 & 14