Ga and Adangbe canoe culture: a composite art form for studio practice exploration

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Considering canoe as a work of art, this thesis project sought to use fundamental known theories of art to examine canoe as a composite art form involving painting and sculpture in order to find out the artistic nexus underlying canoe art among the Gas and Adangbes from Accra to Ada and subsequently exploring the data in studio practice. The data collection and analysis involved literature review, fieldwork review and studio practice experimentation. Survey findings by the Ghana Canoe Frame Survey (2004) were used as the research frame to determine sample size of each research site and to ascertain individual subjects possessing significant comparable and representative character in carving and painting. Non-participant observation technique was used to examine the pre-hull and initial hull making stages of the Ga and Adangbe canoe. Participant observation was also employed in the completion stages for one (1) Adangbe canoe by the researcher in order to have hands on experience for better understanding of the canoe making process. Structured and unstructured interview techniques were employed to elucidate information for the identification, description and analysis of the Ga and Adangbe canoes into their artistic categories. In all, findings show four (4) artistic categories of Ga and Adangbe canoes (Isotropic, Optimized, Orthotropic, and Hydrostatic) corresponding to four (4) distinctive compositional structures (Isocomp, Opticomp, Orthocomp and Hydrocomp). Additionally, five (5) distinctive visual elements were categorized with varying subdivisions. Furthermore, the findings were explored in the studio by translating ideas from Ga and Adangbe canoe art into twenty (20) digital paintings by the researcher. These digital paintings with their titles ranging from “security” to “Samai” have been described and analyzed in the thesis report. Based on findings from this research thesis project, the researcher conclude that Ga and Adangbe canoes are versatile cultural art objects with several connections for art-theory practice and exploration vis-à-vis art teaching and learning through studio practice. It is recommended that further research into canoe art will be a good catalyst for promoting swimming and canoeing to attract local and international tourists. Also, efforts should be made by hotel operators with boats, to employ canoe artists to include some of the Ga and Adangbe pictograms on their boats. Furthermore, as a national policy, a university or teacher training college course should be structured around Ga and Adangbe canoe art to integrate this versatile cultural art into main stream curriculum as among coastal dwellers.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of General Art Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, August-2011