City without Features
On the production of the urban
in Ghanian and Nigerian video
A flourishing video cassette culture has influenced the street image of every larger city in southern Ghana since the beginning of the 1990s. Film posters cover walls and fences, small video cinemas advertise with painted posters (fig.1) for their current programme. Next to the actual trading centre of the videos at the central Opera Square in Accra, innumerable small video sales kiosks occupy all the strategic places in the city, like the dog-chaine-boys1, the mobile cassette dealers try to bring their wares to the “bigman” along the large streets, along the river of money. During a “float”, the introduction of a new video, the city itself becomes a stage. With a rented pick-up, brass band and actors, the video promotion tour sets off through the different areas of the city. (Fig. 2). The route itself begins at Makola market to Asylum Down to Kwame Nkrumah Circle, one of the busiest places in Accra, carrying on to the popular quarters of the capital city, according to the film’s target group, the horde of immigrants living in the city and simple craftsmen and tradespeople.2 The content of the films is often the talk of the town.
If it is so, that every epoch has such a thing as a »model guide«, where city experience is primarily reflected - in the 30s this was palm wine songs, then later bar and blackboard painting, pocketbook literature, lately since the 60s also literary stories and novels - then video films are surely the urban medium of the 90s.
As a typical city phenomenon, not least in production and consumer values, they mirror urban trends of the last decade. Within this Ghana undertook a political and economic change of direction. Former president Jerry John Rawlings made the country into a touchstone of the structural acclimatisation programme (SAP) of the international currency fund and world bank. After the »colonial« and »modernist« phase of city development, the 90s set a process of transformation going whose trademark was the deficiency and almost complete absence of urban planning and state leadership. In accordance with liberalisation politics the initiative now lies within the private sector, there is an influx of foreign capital and globalisation of local economy and further informalising of the economy.3
Almost two decades of neo-liberal reform led to social upheaval within Ghanian society and an enormous polarity between rich and poor, developments which are mirrored in the urban topography. A new form of dual city has developed – not only an expression of, but also a reason for growing city conflicts. Parts of Accra meanwhile carry the marks of a disputed area. Whilst inner city areas were up against increasing decay, everywhere on the edges of the city housing developments appeared without the necessary infrastructure, more like loose collections of villas almost in the wild. These are only broken up by the simple houses and huts of the village associations which have been there for a long time. Whoever drives along one of the large arterial roads of Accra today – eg west in the direction of the old harbour town Sekondi - goes through a bizarre landscape of raw buildings, almost completed houses, or houses already in decay.
In between them tower the solidly walled living complexes, the »imprisoned communities«, as a Ghanian critic 4 recently called them, like foreign bodies in the landscape.
The still rapidly growing capital city Accra, today with more than two million inhabitants, is like a »collage city« – chaotic, fragmented, sprawling endlessly, dirty, open, creative. What Roger Kurtz already observed in Kenya may be applied to Accra.: »[....] postcolonial society is a hybrid place where various traditions encounter one another with results that are often explosive but are more often left in an uneasy and unresolved state. Postcolonial reality is a contested reality, and the postcolonial city features a contested geography.«5 The media and arts often take over, according to this thesis, an urbanising role; above all the locally produced video films offer a rapidly urbanising society 6 explanation models and symbols, to grasp and critically interpret open conflicts and paradoxes.
The following text traces, using selected video films from Ghana and Nigeria,7 the theme of urban representation. I have used images from films as a starting point to follow up questions of city imagination and perception and understand them in the interplay of »materialised city«, »imagined city« and in the city represented in the media. In this the places and situations of video production aswell as a brief analysis of the »real« city is represented, above all in its wild outskirts.
The Ghanian video industry as urban phenomenon
The video films produced in Accra and in the second largest city, Kumasi, trade the city as the seat of the modern and are at the same time a significant part of this. Embedded in a typical urban entertainment milieu, as in the colonial cities of Africa, the Brits developed bars and cinemas, the late 1980s producers and directors made the new video technology their own. 8 In this way they took over from a cinema culture relying mainly on foreign film productions (Western, Kung-Fu films amongst others), which in Ghana were in the hands of two financially powerful Indian (Nankani) and Lebanese (Captan) families. The new players of video events were mainly auto-didacts in the area of filmmaking and storytelling – some, e.g. one of the »founding fathers« William Akuffo, knew the area as a film demonstrator, other such as Richard Quartey, who has a university education in English Literature, are the exception. Around fifty new films come onto the market every year in Ghana today. Nigeria, where some titles reach sales of more than 300.000, has made itself into the »Bollywood« of black Africa with more than 500 videos made each year.9 An individual production and marketing structure has developed which is wide reaching and reaches into other economic structures. It began with the establishment of an individual factory manufacturing site where, to keep costs down, empty cassettes from Asia are filled with magnetic tape from Holland to exactly the required length. This extends to their own film equipment and a polished distribution system, whichextends to the crowd of mobile cassette dealers and also integrates with European and American and Canadian cities with their African diaspora shops. The booming video production has even changed public space in the cities. Even though the cinemas up to the present day are something of landmarks in the urban geography, thanks to their imposing architecture, their meaning as social meeting points has disappeared, where heterogenity and difference as experience of the city could be established.
Most of the cinemas in Accra and Kumasi have now been turned into churches. 10 The consumption of the films either in small video viewing cinemas, organised on a local level, or even more private, within their own four walls, stands for an increasing individualisation of society as also for an advanced level of restriction of public space. Ghanian cities have increasingly become unsafe places, which are often controlled by their own security forces. 11
The video industry is a short lived business, with varying protagonists, it is to a high degree a local concern: even though the majority of the films are made in English, the content and meaning exploiting some technical tricks, eg animal-human-metamorphoses, which are only with difficulty accessible to a viewer not aware of the cultural context. Directors and scriptwriters rely too much on well known stories, as they were recently to be found in the »forerunners« of the videos, the booklet literature, or play well known city myths.
Accra Sweet. City Ikons
The image of the city in Ghanian as well as Nigerian video films is made with modest means. Main locations are (office) blocks, fantastic villas on the periphery of the city, multi-storey shops and chic boutiques, fast food joints, and finally busy squares, city motorways and bridges. Babina, 2000 produced by Akwete Kany12 offers a model example of how »city« and city life can be established in just a few sequences (Fig. 3,a,b,c). The scene begins with a fade in of womans head on the right hand side of the screen. Man-made thunder and lightning follow, resulting in a view of a »housing estate«, which have become so popular in Accra and Lagos in the past few years. We see a row of well-tended, identical one-family houses covered with red tiles. In general, the drive through such an area takes place in a comfortable car. Babina, the witch tries to tempt and impress her boyfriend with such a property. A scene from another film, Marijata 1 (1999) from the Ghanian director Harry Laud13 begins in a similar way. The camera shows one of those properties, as is typical in the villa areas in the continually spreading city borders of Accra (and Kumasi). The one-family house is, in the eyes of many Ghanians, the home of the small family, which already signals the powerful walling off which separate the private from the public space of the street. Further shots show the drive in “bigmen” cars into the courtyard (and the assiduous serving boy) and reveal a view of a tidy garden and sometimes a swimming pool. Then finally the villa itself is shown, accompanied by classical music it raises the attraction for the majority of Ghanians. With its (in the architectural sense) post-modern formal language it seems to come directly out of American suburbia. It is known from Euro-American art history that not only new materials (iron, glass, concrete) gave the architect’s vision wings, but also reached paradigmatic meaning for urbanity as such »concrete jungle« etc. In Ghana window glass and aluminium (in contrast to the much more useful wooden frames with mosquito net), roofing tiles (instead of corrugated iron) and tiles count as the epitome of a contemporary Ghanian building style and are valued in the local advertising as such. (Fig. 4).
That which the videos show as centrally representing urbanity, what advertising billboards and commercials promise, is to be found in the »real«, materialised city in the periphery or in its »gentrified«, inner city. The epitome of the luxurious suburban residential area East Legon, is today on the north edge of Accra. a real building boom happened at the end of the 80s in the area, which is in part public land, and partly lies in the hands of individual Ga-Lineage14, which increasingly crowded the indigenous villages and already led to (partly violent) land conflicts. One of the first villas which was built there was called »American House«, after its builders, a Ghanian family who had lived in New York for almost two decades, and could no longer imagine community life within a large farm. 15 In the time to follow, increasing numbers of so-called “been-to’s”16 and (other new) rich from an increasingly decaying inner city came into the intimate core of the luxurious estate. What happened in East Legon is an eclecticism of styles, the associations with the work of the Congolese sculptor Bodys Isek Kingelez wakes, on whose work Okwui Enwezor remarked: » [...] on a technical level his work do not represent any fantasies, as they are realisable- they are being built in all the corners of Africa by house owners, who pass by the so called architects and with the help of technical draftsmen develop new palaces, which fit in with their unusual dreams.«17 Actually in Ghana decoration magazines such as »Homes and Gardens« are often used by the builder-owners as a model for their property. Similarly, what is known from the marginalised migrant zongos 18, yet naturally financially on a completely different level, here whole areas develop from the efforts of their inhabitants; the more such a neighbourhood develops, the more others come with other services, for example connecting to one of the countless collective taxi routes of the city. What then develops however is everything but the homogenaeity of suburbia, as we know it, a fact which I will come to.
With the cut to the interior of the house, the camera fixes the image of the African (new) rich culture, which seems significantly defined by media and consumer goods. Particularly in the hall as the central reception and representations room, where all the status symbols are gathered. Upholstered sofa sets, side tables, walls of fitted cupboards, electric fans, hi-fi stereos and video recorders, often also »modern« African art. The living room already played a central role in the colonial efforts to carry off a lifestyle which forces the ideals of homeliness and nuclear family seclusion. In the former colony Gold Coast the »Ideal Home Exhibitions« had a key position.19 Recently the motive of the »hall« is also found on the wax prints so beloved in the whole of West Africa, the so-called “Le salon de Houphouet-Boigny”. (Abb. 5) We give decorative objects, above all luxury goods, a communicative aspect above their actual function. 20 The living room as a symbol to have made something of oneself, to be able to afford more than the essentials is the subject of a scene in Times (2000) by Ifeanyi Onyeabor 21. Francis has a visit from a business partner, they chat and exchange news, as his guest wants to go, he asks suddenly »How do you find my livings?« We see a room divider, decorated with objects of desire - and in the middle, a TV as a window to the world (Fig. 6).
As so-called »establishing shots«, scenes which establish the city as the place of action are often the inner-city equivalent of a single family house. Office blocks with shiny outdoor plazas which allow Accra to become a modern, open »gateway to Africa« in official city image discourse, as well as large shops and boutiques, symbols of a consumer oriented city lifestyle. Further places which function as a representation of the urban are the fast-food joints which advertise with neon signs on Oxford Street, the amusement mile of Accra (Fig. 7). They differ in their transparency so completely from the completely shut off »chop bars« to be found everywhere in the city, roadside kitchens. The highways and bridges shown repeatedly in Ghanian videos and music videos have nothing to do with the street as a place full of sociability and activity, as urban icons they refer to the transient character of an accelerated life, they stand for mobility. And something else, in seemingly endless journeys through the streets of Accra, past the national theatre, the new office buildings of downtown Accra, Independence Square with its monumental memorials over the Sankara bridge, along the Kanda highway, the films show familiar places in the city in a global medium and so become icons of urban pride. For most Ghanians the videos nevertheless uncover a world whose splendour and luxury they can only imagine, for example by watching the gigantic furniture displays along the streets which lead to suburbia. The videos, like their predecessors, booklet literature, celebrate this foreign lifestyle and demonstrate it comprehensively. The camera swings slowly through the living room, focuses on the closet, swings from the village to the city, the gaze is drawn to a swimming pool, pleasant music: »City Life Sweetoooo!«
The City as Trickster
Every mythology is topography. The mythology of the modern is bound to the metropolis. In Ghana one says that the city opens the eyes (»weni bebie«), broadens the horizons. The videos also show the city and the modern cross fading; you reassure yourself of your own modernity. However, it is not way free of contradictions and has its price. »Accra Sweet« – that is the one message; the other is more to be understood as a warning. The city is a »trickster«, always changeable and full of surprises, as Kojo Laing22 expresses it, a siren says Tierno Monénembo23, meaning the nymphs well known in all Africa, who seduce and destroy at the same time.
A kind of »meta-story« of Ghanian city experience concerns the first impressions and confusions of the villagers in the cities, in constantly new variations. Their entrance into an urban environment is a key scene for the image of the city in videos. The most important moments of urban life are shown in just a few scenes, traffic, unbearable noise, crowds of people, the tangle and crowding, in short the »fluidité urbaine«. The villager is always easily recognisable by his dress (Fig. 8), his habits, his obvious confusion and the mistakes he makes in the city jungle. A video film which is to the point about the temptations and dangers of city life is Jewels 1+2 (1999), a Ghanian-Nigerian co production under Samuel Nyamekye.24 In a parallel montage the story is told of two couples, one of each of whom goes to the city. (»I am leaving for the city. I want to live properly«) The title of the film alludes to the central event, around which the action pivots, and which towards the end of the films brings both stories together. Openyi and his wife Asantewaa are asked to look after equally ritually important and valuable jewellery. Openyi cannot resist the temptation and pawns the gold in the city, in order to subsequently enjoy a life of prosperity and sensual joy. As a totally simple-minded but stinking rich villager, he is not prepared for the traps the city has ready for its newcomers and falls for the mean tricks of the city girls who are “washed in all waters” (well know figures in Ghanian literature). She has her eyes set only on Francis’ money (as an external sign of having shrugged off his village origins, Openyi has taken a new name) She consults a Jujuman25, with the result that Francis vegetates, blind and alone in the tiny chamber of a luxurious house. He has not only plunged himself into ruin, but also his village wife who, threatened with death, tries everything to get the jewellery back. The actions of Grace prove to be similarly destructive, who leaves her husband in the village with their newborn baby. Financially independent, as the owner of several boutiques she mutates into a »sugar mommy«, who her (many years younger) lover Marcus knows to attach himself to. Fate runs its course, as Marcus falls in love with the daughter of his sugar mommy, meanwhile also living in Accra. As she finds out about the affair, yet doesn’t suspect the family relationship, she also consults a jujuman. The daughter Patience is taken to hospital incurably ill. After endless complications, Jewels ends with a happy end, bringing villagers and city dwellers »peacefully« together – a rarity in Ghanian video. What the film shows are the dark side of the city, it gives its viewers a lesson about urban abysses and uncertainties, it shows the city as a world where social relationships are more than fragile.
I Hate My Village26
In almost all Ghanian and Nigerian video films, the relationship between village and city is balanced in some way or other. Whilst in the more well known films from Mali or Burkina Faso the village is mostly portrayed as a place of reflective rationality, if not even innocence, the videos never transfigure village life- a fact which the videos share with other media, above all the internationally oriented literature. »Nature« and village there play a role in the videos as »domesticated nature«, to a certain extent observed from a distance through the eyes of a tourist. Ghanian film makers speak strictly from the perspective of the city dweller. In their view, the village appears as a place of tradition, as raw, pagan, poor and backward. Ifeanyi Onyeabo (1999), producer of I Hate My Village even uses the trope of cannibalism. The villager craftsmen dig traps in the bush. Their victims are surveyors and tax collectors from the city (»government meat«). A young woman can’t watch what is happening any longer (»I don’t like the way you are eating our fellow human beings. – I hate my village.«) and escapes to Lagos. There she is introduced to the world of the new rich by women she knows (prostitutes, as later becomes clear). She returns to the village with her fiancé for a masked ball, lets him out of her sight for a short time, and then can only find his clothes. The film ends with the arrival of more city dwellers. For a moment it seems as if there will be a fight between the villagers and the city dwellers. The dichotomies so widely spread in Africa between village (=civilization) versus bush (=wildness) seems to have crossed over into a new polarity. The village with its magical practices stands for the wilderness whilst the city, though critically and ambivalently, as a place of modernism is not brought into question. The city as resource offers access to spheres of increased information density, to potential clients and business partners, to goods production and goods trade. The village (and the return of the migrants to their home town is almost always represented as a story of failure) does not offer any alternative here.
A certain paradox remains, Ghanians do not tire of emphasising that Accra or any other metropolis could never be a hometown. The “true” spiritual power lies only in the village. A messenger from the village arrives in the city, confused by the disorder of the traffic, excuses himself: »I am from the village.« To reassure him, his friend, who is already familiar with the lifestyle of the city explains: »Oh, that’s what we all are.«
The Mysteries of Suburbia
Topographically most of the videos stretch over three places. One is the village and the wilderness; the latter appears mostly as the home of occult powers. To get there the city dwellers often have to undertake difficult transitory journeys – for example in Jewels, Grace rides on a crocodile over a river, the citygirl stalks in high-heeled shoes and uncomfortable clothes through the bush. Once arrived at the shrine, an uncanny world opens up which tries to relate iconic debts from completely fictive African cults. It is important that many video film makers do not film the village scenes in actual villages, but use simple areas of the city (which actually stand more for the unfilmed Ghanian and Nigerian cities) as backdrop. The »real« urbanity, that which the videos show as city, in reality lies in the suburban outskirts.
American suburbia is different however, in that social and ethnic tensions of the centre mirror the segregation and the social homogeneity in the periphery. Ghanian suburbia marks a peculiarly contrasting adjacency of enclaves of unbelievable riches and »great despair« (Abb. 9, 10, 11). As »city nomads« whole families, mostly migrants, move as so-called »land guards«, as inhabitants and guards from one raw building to the next. In the lack of a functioning infrastructure, and in order to earn something extra, they also make their own: the first sales stands for groceries, small cooking stoves etc emerge. In some places, even here, the »kiosk-culture« blooms, otherwise so characteristic of inner city streets. For 1000 dollars you can get a porta-cabin, originally constructed for freight, in the harbour of Tema, which then transforms into a photo shop by day and harbours a hairdressers or has place for a small shop or a bar. At night, the owner of the kiosk rents out sleeping places in the porta-cabins. A kind of parallel world emerges here, which automatically also comes in to contact, sometimes even into conflicts, with the life of others, the wealthy.
As their new architecture is quite set to be blocked off, for a strict division of public space of the street and the private. The walls, as much as the cultivated green strips in front of them, are safety corridors to the street. This attempt at domesticity however leads to nothing, as the needs of the land guards and their families are different, are oriented to an older form of publicity on the street.
Areas such as East Legon are also expressly heterogenous areas, a bizarre mixture of firmly walled off villas, raw buildings and workshops of those who work directly for the needs of the estate inhabitants. The meaning of the cities and (just) its suburbia as generators of a demonstrative consumption is sufficiently well known and may also be applied to Ghanian suburbia. Individual branches of production and services have developed in this environment. It began with the fabrication of iron gates and lattices as protection against attacks, by dealers who offer every imaginable type of building material directly in front of the door, from »garden centre« up to security services.
In Accra the city blooms on the periphery, for its users and inhabitants the beautiful and impressive is to be found beyond the old inner city areas which visibly decay. This development is not quite new, rather it has a history, not least with the particular genesis many African cities has, whose growth (as in the case of Accra) began with the colonial era. »Colonial cities« were always segregated places, following »sanitation syndrome«28, a city model was established which consisted of a shut off European quarter and the African quarters, often divided by a »corridor sanitaire«. In between was the commercial centre of the city with its warehouses, the clubs and bars. Already during the late colonial era an early black elite set up their own residential areas (in Accra first of all Asylum Down, later Cantonments, Labone and Airport Residential Area). »Buttoned up«, as these areas showed themselves to the outside they already inspired the fantasy of the simple city dwellers very early, later they found an entrance in the newly established literature. This began with speculations over the possibilities of producing light (for along time the European quarters were the only electrified places in the city) during the colonial era to the extremely critical of society comments in the »disillusionment novels« of the 60s,
»Bungalows, white with a wounding whiteness. Cars, long and heavy, with drivers in white men’s uniforms waiting in the sun. Women, so horribly young, fucked and changed like pants, asking only for perfume from diplomatic bags and wigs of human scraped from which decayed white woman’s corpse.«29
up to the deep reflections in Kojo Laings’ »Search Sweet Country«
»By fezless Labone, where the two circular houses with their single tower sitting-rooms lay, Oka Pol stopped to buy groundnuts. There was the usual extraordinary neatness here which could not quite be called beauty, for it was too pretty, too regular, and there were too many watchmen guarding it. He imagined smooth orange juice being passed round from house to house, and then being consumed at exactly the same time with exactly the same type of glass.«30
there elevated residential areas area constantly recurring subject and the reason for circulating theories and rumours. So many older people report how in the Asylum Down or parts of Adabraka experienced wealth may be explained by a spiritual union with Mami Wata, a nymph-like white woman, who lives on the sea floor. This concerns a seductive spirit, very famous in the popular imagination, who not only stands for physical enjoyment, but above all is associated with unbridled consumption. Even today the prosperity in the suburban areas is very suspicious to many Ghanians, and is in their minds connected with illegal business (drug trafficking) or sika sunsum (blood money, which comes from the alliance with a Jujuman).
The view behind the Facades. Occult Economies
The videos bring the ambivalence of urban life particularly impressively to the point. From the beginning here city experience appears translated into ciphers of fascination and fear. Time (2000)31 for example tells the story of the history of the city as an event around occult economies. 32 Francis, the central figure, gets innocently into large difficulties, his brother-in-law, although he has recently become rich, doesn’t pay borrowed money back, even mocked it. »I suggest you try the village.« In a completely hopeless situation, Francis and his family must go back to the village, a Jujuman offers help. »Your wife will get sick, and you will get sikka and sikka (sikka, Twi = Geld).« this is how it happens, as his wife dies, he takes her corpse to a secret place, where it henceforth spits money. Also in Rituals33 it is human victims who Don Pedro, one of the leading figures in the cult (as it is succinctly called), guarantee riches and good appearance.(Abb.12a, b) The sequence of images begins where the victim is beheaded, a bizarre ritual follows. Skulls, fetish screaming, war painting. The head disappears, the deity has accepted the victim, there is happiness. The next shot shows the effect of the ritual, in a kind of money potlach, Don Pedro distributes Naira notes to the musicians. The Billionaires Club34 tells a similar story about wealth and its price. Victoria and Set, financially well off, yet childless for a long time, have at last had a baby and can finally be happy. As Set however meets a former student friend, he invites him to the billionaires club, a secretly organised lodge with their own rituals and ways of behaviour, which are displayed in abundance. We see respectable old men dressed in the most expensive damast, dancing, drinking champagne and sparkling wine, filling their stomachs with greasy chicken and rice. Their companions are young women who they throw Naira notes to whilst dancing. Despite his surprise and scepticism Set agrees to a further meeting in an ostentatious private house, the living room is stuffed with old African art. As a sign of his initiation, Set washes his hands in a kind of sculptural baptism basin.
Now there is no way back, even when he is requested to bring his baby along to the next meeting and set suspects something terrible, it is too late. The boss of the alliance warns him and prophesies that if he doesn’t do what is expected of him, his baby will die. He really does find a despairing Victoria at home, the sickly child in her arms. The taking over of a »simple man« by powerful, unscrupulous bigmen is here impressively presented and corresponds to a widely spread feeling in Ghana of being helplessly delivered into the hands of the actions of the wealthy. 35 The next shots show the sacrifice of the baby. The cult members have gathered around an old fetish priestess, who received the bundle laughing gloatingly. She crushes and pounds the little body in a mortar. Vicky, close to madness, is led to »the sanctuary« by bodyguards according to the text, and also murdered. The rest of the film shows the »successful initiation« of Set, and his rapid economic ascent. In Ghana such events are held to be thoroughly possible, even if individual residents of the estate are not suspected of slave trading or ritual murder. The rumours about »haunted houses« are the exception to this – haunted houses which, because of occult involvements cannot be finished and mostly completely barricaded and boarded up for all to see, are sacrificed to decay. As a model of interpretation for a wealth not understandable for the majority of people, which in addition is »individually wasted « and not shared with others, dozens of stories circulate in Accra about ritual murder and the people behind it. The videos coin these city well known assumptions or »open secrets« into the visual, they make them visible.
An example of how »permeable« the borders are between different media are the series of murders of women in Accra between 1999 and 2001. That the murders took place exactly during the presidential election campaign surprised none of my interview subjects, quite the opposite. The public view is concerned with ritual murder, which the members of the then government carried out in order to keep power. This theory is supported by to many Ghanians as well as many newspaper reports 36 by the fact that the number of women killed up until the date of the election came doubtfully near 31, a symbolically important number for the NDC regime, it came to power over ten years ago on the 31st December. A film produced in 2000 – Accra Killings37 – made the murders into its subject and spoke out on the discourse circulating on the possibilities of staying in power. »Jaspa the big transport owner fronts for Zeus the spirit god. Who demands blood and human parts for sacrifices to help a politician, a businessman and a businesswoman with political ambitions to achieve their aims« was written on the video cover.
In a situation of increasing urbanisation pressure and growing inequality in cities, the videos represent a kind of »urbanisation machine«. They offer explanations and interpretory patterns for a world which has, for many people, gone out of control. Thoroughly critical of society, they look behind the facades of the grand villas and there discover the corruption of power. Money reigns and this is owed to the sacrificed victims of nebulous secret clubs. In this way, they may be interpreted as a kind of medial reciprocal publicity. The video films describe the city between heaven and hell; some scenes seem to be strangely empty despite their glitz, true non-places, a city without features. Actually many films purport to play icons of West African urbanity, not Kumasi where the filming took place, but Accra or Lagos. Kumasi is Accra is Lagos. The cults appear in their extreme syntheticism, their fictional character almost so lacking in features as some places in the city. Together, one could argue here, they mirror the large uncertainty of post-colonial society. That the situation in the Ghanian cities has not been completely »thrown over«, that rumours about the doings of the elite has not yet culminated in violent confrontations such as in the case of the Nigerian cities38 for example, may have something to do with the comparatively (!) peaceful calm situation there. Up until now the powers of the night, as Filip de Boeck39 describes about Kinshasa do not yet dominate the day. Yet one will have to re-think matters concerning the African city. The Weberian theory of the »de-mystifying of the world« with increasing urbanisation certainly does not happen here, rather there are new overlays and occult interactions, which are not least mirrored in Ghanian and Nigerian video films.
1. As dog-chaine-boys in Ghana the dealers are represented by »useless« things such as dog chains and other »luxury items«. They stopped the flow of money, where it is stopped in a jam.
2. The route of the float for Zinabu for the remake is described (Richard Quartey und William Akuffo 2001). For the reception of the video films in comparison to the (few) Ghanian author films see Birgit Meyer 1999, Popular Ghanian Cinema and »African Heritage«, in: African Today 46/2: 93-114.
3. Vgl. R. Grant, 2001, Liberalization and foreign companies in Accra, Ghana, in: Environment and Planning A, 33: 997-1014. On urban development in African cities in general see Carole Rakodi, 2002, Order and Disorder in African Cities: Governance, Politics and Urban Land Development Processes, in: Okwui Enwezor u.a. (Hg.), Under Siege: Four African Cities. Freetown, Johannesburg, Kinshasa, Lagos. (= Documenta 11_Platform 4), Kassel: 45-80.
4. Henry Nii-Adziri Wellington, 2002, Kelewele, Kpokpoi, Kpanlogo. A Random Search for Accra’s Urban Quality in a Sea of Globalisation, in: Ralph Mills-Tettey, Korantema Adi Dako (Hg.), Visions of the City. Accra in the 21st Century, Accra.
5. J. Roger Kurtz, 1998, Urban Obsessions, Urban Fears. The Postcolonial Kenyan Novel, Oxford: 85.
6. In addition one has to imagine that the metropolises of the south stand in front of an urbanisations drive since a few decades, which even overshadow the enormous urbanisation rates of the industrialising Europe in the 19th century. See : Anthony O’ Connor, 1983, The African City, New York.
7. I refer conciously to Ghanian as well as Nigerian products, as both are consumed in Ghana. Partly we are dealing with Ghanian-Nigerian businesses, eg in the case of Miracle Production, residing in Kumasi.
8. On the origin and consequences of cassette culture comp. Tobias Wendl, 2003, Les thèmes favoris des films d’horreur du Ghana e du Nigeria, in: Africalia (Hg.), Transferts, Brüssel: 242-254.
9. A whole series of authors have concerned themselves with video films, see, among others, the contributions in: Jonathan Haynes (Hg.), 2000, Nigerian Video Films, Ohio, Birgit Meyer (see Anm.2), Tobias Wendl, 2002, Le miracle vidéo du Ghana, in: CinemAction: 182-191, Paris und Onookome Okome, 2002, Writing the Anxious City: Images of Lagos in Nigerian Home Video Films, in: Okwui Enwezor u.a. (Hg.), Under Siege: Four African Cities. Freetown, Johannesburg, Kinshasa, Lagos, Kassel: 315-334.
10. Brian Larkin observed something similar in a Nigerian context :ders., 1999, Theaters of the Profane: Cinema and Colonial Urbanism, in: Visual Anthropology Review 14/2: 46-62.
11. In addition: Kerstin Pinther, 2002, Die geträumte Stadt. Reklame und urbane Landschaft in Ghana, in: Tobias Wendl (Hg.), Afrikanische Reklamekunst, Wuppertal: 107-119.
12. Akwete Kany, Babina(Video), Ghana, 2000.
13. Harry Laud, Marijata 1 (Video), Ghana, 1999.
14. The Ga are the original population of Ghana.
15. Interview August 2000, Accra.
16. Ghanians who have spent time in Europe are called »been-to«. As carriers of a new type of lifestyle they and their (often seen as alienating) lifestyle were and still are early the object of literary debates and city wide rumours and assumptions.
17. Okwui Enwezor 2001, Trickster-Urbanismus: Die Architektonischen Simulationen von Bodys Isek Kingelez, in: Yilmaz Dziewior (Hg.), Bodys Isek Kingelez (= Ausstellungskatalog Kunstverein Hamburg): 11.
18.Migranten-Zongos, A »zongo« is above all a quarter of West African cities inhabited mainly by Muslim immigrants.
19. »Ideal Home Shows Exhibition drew 2,000 Visitors a Day«, in: Gold Coast Weekly Review, 05.09.1956.
20. Jean Baudrillard, 1968, Le système des objets, Paris.
21. Ifeanyi Onyeabor, Times (Video), Ghana, 2000.
22. B. Kojo Laing, 1986, Search Sweet Country, London.
23. Tierno Monénembo, 1993, Un attiéké pour Elgass, Paris.
24. Samuel Nyamekye, Jewels 1+2 (Video), Ghana 1999.
25. Jujuman, all types of fetish priest in Ghana are called jujuman. (also: whitch doctor).
26. Ifeanyi Onyeabor, I Hate My Village (Video), Nigeria 1999.
27. Uzodinma Okpechi, Above Death (Video), Nigeria 1999.
28. Vgl. etwa John Parker, 2001, Making the Town. Ga State and Social Society in Early Colonial Accra, London.
29. Ayi Kwei Armah, 1968, The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born, London: 89.
30. Kojo Laing, 1986, Search Sweet Country, London: 247. »Fezless Labone« plays on the homogenaeity of the area, no (muslim) immigrants - »Fez wearers« - live there.
31. Ifeanyi Onyeabor Time (Video), Nigeria, 2000.
32. Comp. eg Peter Geschiere, 1997, The Modernity of Witchcraft. Politics and the Occult in Postcolonial Africa, Charlottesville.
33. Kenneth Nnebue, Rituals (Video), Nigeria 1997.
34. The Billionaires Club (Video), Nigeria 2003.
35. A subject, by the way, which is also taken up in contemporary Ghanian literature, see. eg Benjamin Kwakye,1998, The Clothes of Nakedness, London.
36. The Guide eg reported on 19.12.2000: »Two more killed in Accra, 31 required for ritual purpose? These latest killings which are the highest to occur within a short space of time has brought into sharp focus the speculation that a certain political party wants the blood of 31 women for rituals for political reasons.«
37. G.K. Quansah, Accra Killings (Video), Ghana 2000.
38. Daniel Jordan Smith, 2001, Ritual Killing, 419, and fast wealth: inequality and the popular imagination in southeatern Nigeria, in: American Ethnologisty 28/4: 803-826 und Johannes Harnischfeger 2003, Spirituelle Mobilmachtung. Staatsverfall und die Wiederkehr okkulter Gewalt in Afrika, in: Lettre 60: 32-35.
39. Filip de Boeck, Kinshasa: Tales of the »Invisible City« and the Second World, in: Okwui Enwezor u.a., Under Siege, siehe Anmerkung 3: 243-285.
1. Happy Days Video, Accra. Photo: Tobias Wendl, Accra 2000.
2. Zinabu, Cassette traders on a tour through Accra. Photo: Kerstin Pinther, Accra 2001.
3. The Witch and the Housing Estate, video still from Babina, Ghana 2000.
4. »Your Lifetime Guarantee«, advertising billboard in Kumasi. Photo: Kerstin Pinther, Kumasi 2000.
5. Le salon de Houphouet-Boigny, wax print, photo: Kerstin Pinther, 2001
6. »How do you find my livings?«, video still from Times, Ghana 2000.
7. »Oxford Street«, Accra, video still from Babina, Ghana 2000.
8. »Villager«, video still from Jewels 2, Ghana 1999.
9. - 11. Ghanian Suburbia: East Legon. Photos: Kerstin Pinther, Accra 2001.
12. Das Ritual und seine Wirkung, video stills from Rituals, Nigeria 1997.