Thursday, March 29-April 4, 2007
SAKA ACQUAYE: THE LAST HURDLE
By: JAMES GIBBS
SAKA Acquaye, who died in February at the age of 83, was a versatile artist who made an immense contribution to the visual and performing arts in Ghana during a life-time of service.
The revival of his best known work, The Lost Fishermen during the month in which he died gave the younger generation a chance to experience one of the classics of the Ghanaian theatre, a story told in music, song and dance that looked, in the heady sixties, as if it would establish Ghanaian folk opera` as a national form.
Acquaye was born in Accra in 1923, and the heritage of the Ga people was always of the utmost importance to him. His formal education included important time spent at Achimota (1943-49) and two periods in the United States (1953-9 and 1962-4) where he studied in Philadelphia and at UCLA.
He took a variety of courses that included art, sculpture, opera and theatre. While there he won numerous awards, traveled widely, and made several recordings, often with his ‘African Ensemble’, that are much sought-after.
He returned to Ghana Permanently in 1964 and picked up his work in the theatre while continuing to sculpt and, through his contact groups, while playing an influential role on the music scene.
In addition to The Lost Fishermen, he was responsible for Obadzeng Goes to Town (published 1965), Modzawe (presented 1970), and sasabonsam (presented1980) that were given national and international exposure. He is also credited with the neglected Accra after Midnight, Dantsira, Ananse to Mary the Queen Mother, Bo Mong, Anase and the Magic Drum, Ananse in Ghost land, and Hintinhintin.
During the seventies and eighties, when often away from the theatre,
Acquaye made passionate interventions in cultural debates, commenting on such issues as the role of mime in drama, the social function of theatre, the importance of music in education and the need for artists to be steeped in local traditions.
During the decades, he held important positions in government bodies, produced sculptures, sometimes naturalist in form that adorned public spaces, and was honoured with national awards.
Shortly before the celebration of Ghana’s 50th Independence.
Anniversary, Saka Acquaye, the versatile artist who had made his mark on his country’s theatre, music and art, fell at the hurdle that no man can clear.
GRAPHIC SHOWBIZ – Thursdays, March 29 – April 4, 2007 Page: 9