West Africa has arrived in Manchester with one hell of a splash – courtesy of We Face Forward. This is a summer long programme of art and music across many different venues, and for my first taste I went to the exhibition at the Whitworth Art Gallery.
It all starts in Whitworth Park itself, where the trees are alive to the African sounds via speakers wired up throughout the walkways, creating a very lively carnival atmosphere (if you disdainfully ignore the obligatory Bank Holiday rain that is). In the gallery itself, West African culture has pretty much taken over proceedings, with the lush main room transformed by Pascale Marthine Tayou into a forest of trees overhung by a rainbow of colours.
The paintings and photos themselves are brilliant and vivid - some with a serious message. The title of the event is taken from Ghanaian President Nkrumah when he said in 1960 that they faced neither East nor West in the Cold War hostilities, ‘but we face forward’. There is a very lively upbeat feel to the whole place, helped along by some fabulous African drumming.
Some particular favourites of mine were the moving and honest photos of Ghana by Nii Obodai, and the poster for the Pan African Congress. I will definitely be checking out the other venues to see what they have to offer, particularly the dresses at the Gallery of Costume at Platt Fields. This is just what we need to chase away the British summertime weather blues and put a bit of colour into our lives.