Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh and Ato Annan
Video still from Exit Frame by I.U.B & Ato Annan, 2013
This work explores the subjects of identity, geography, migration, and [dis] location of W.E.B. Du Bois from the perspective of two Ghanaian artists, I.U.B. and Ato Annan. The work investigates Du Bois from a personal and relational angle. In the foreword of the Ghana University Press publication of Selected Poems, Kwame Nkrumah describes him as a “sensitive Fighter Poet who for three-quarters of a century struggled against the waves of Oppression, Misery and Woe which engulfed his people.” In the same book, Shirley Graham states of his writing style that it “is always highly personal and is neither constant nor consistent.” Furthermore, Graham states that “Du Bois wrote in awful isolation; an isolation at first imposed because of his color and later wholeheartedly embraced.” A passionate, vociferous intellectual of Du Bois’s nature must have endured lengthy moments of angst — what Irit Rogoff terms psychic subjectivities — desire, compulsion, anxiety. Of course the context of Rogoff’s terminologies derive from her de- constructionist theorization of geography, where she offers one (of four) definitions as “a site of collective national, cultural, linguistic and topographical histories.” Du Bois’s fight for equality, dignity, and justice must have stemmed from a belief in sacredness of identity or ethnicity or race. Therefore those moments of awful isolation spent writing in defense and in glorification and acceptance of his identity must have produced torturous moments for this Afro- American intellectual. The project agrees with Rogoff’s premise in its study of Du Bois, his writings, ideas, ideals, and vision as a conceptual structure or order of existing knowledge. It becomes far more legitimate when Du Bois’s essence or life’s meaning is studied with these far less obvious moments in mind, which may have worked together to define him and his struggle as a Pan-African advocate. The video depicts a pensive character pacing back and forth, pondering what seems to be an ominous decision he must make. The subject is all too aware of the political implications his final decision would arouse and yet slams his passport as a final gesture that inevitably alters his citizenship status. Du Bois responds to his “Ghana Calls” . . .