Graveface brings Ghana to Savannah with hand-painted film posters

Lila Miller, A&E Editor

The interior of Graveface Records and Curiosities. (Facebook)

As part of Starland’s First Friday Art March, Graveface Records and Curiosities will present another exhibition at the 41st St. storefront beginning Friday, March 3 from 7-9 p.m. The showcase will include hand-painted movie posters from Ghana, West Africa. The work will cover films from the late 1980s to present.

The posters feature West African artists such as Mr. Brew, Leonardo, Salvation, Stoger, Death is Wonder, Joe Mensah, Samuel Arts, AfricAtta and Heavy J. Brian Chankin from Chicago’s  Deadly Prey Gallery will also be on hand giving an in-depth presentation on the film posters.

The posters themselves were once the product of a much larger industry known as the Ghanaian Mobile Cinema (GMC). The mobile cinema business was the brainchild of artistic and industrious people bringing the art of film to villages in Ghana that were devoid of electricity.

They started the business in the late 1980s, forming video clubs and traveling throughout Ghana with a television, a VCR, VHS tapes and a portable generator. They would set up makeshift screening areas, providing a selection of movies that ultimately became popular in West Africa because of GMC.

As word spread of the rising business, competition surfaced. Mobile cinema operators needed to set their films and products apart and sought artists to advertise the films.

Without realistically affordable access to mass-printing, the hand-painted poster was both logical and unique. Skilled local artists put their efforts towards the growing entertainment industry in Ghana and each brought their own artistic vision to the films they promoted.

The posters are created by sewing together two flour sacks ranging from a perfect sized canvas for a movie poster. Each unique poster varies in size ranging from 40-50 inches in width and 55-70 inches in height.

Presently, the mobile cinema has all but become a relic from a different time, though the hand-painted movie posters remain a tangible product.