Ghanavision: Hand-Painted Film Posters from Ghana

I Hate My Village (film poster from Ghana)

Is this some new folk art movement? A new way of seeing film promotion reflected back at us through another culture? Some strange homage to the horror and action film genres of the eighties and beyond?    

Ghanavision, published by the small German press Bongout, is all of these things and more – a sampler of various hand-painted movie posters by Ghanaian artists created specially to promote public showings of movies on VHS in villages via local video clubs or traveling cinemas which consisted of a car, a VCR, a TV and an electrical generator. It’s a bizarre, funny and astonishing melange of primeval imagery and, in many cases, a new promotional take on such lowbrow commercial fare as Commando (1985) or Return of the Living Dead (1985) or other movies made in Africa, such as the Nigerian-made BLACK BRA (2005) – see below right.

In many cases the artists who painted these posters often hadn’t seen the movies they were depicting and based their interpretations on a few film stills or a plot description. According to the book’s forward by Thibaut de Rayter, “The names of the directors were of no importance, those of the actors only when they’re superstars. What each poster needed was an image to create the desire to see the movie…the artists managed to create funny images mixing monsters, (half-) naked women and superheroes, then setting them against naively painted and distortedly proportioned African landscapes….Yet showing things that are not in the movie may be why the poster[s] work so well as packaging.” A perfect example of this is the hand-painted poster for THE GUARDIAN, William Friedkin’s 1990 killer tree movie which has little to do with the actual film.

02_The_Guardian

Sometimes the artist’s name would take precedence over any actor or director on the poster such as Stephen King’s supernatural thriller SLEEPWALKERS (1992) which only bears the name of the video club where it’s playing and the name of the artist, Ziggy.

sleepwalkers

Then there’s the ubiquitous Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger pictures featuring movie action heroes who are so entrenched in the culture that their likeness is recognized everywhere in the world from South America to New Zealand to Senegal.

From my own recollection, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a movie made by Ghanaian filmmakers. I have seen movies from other countries that were filmed in Ghana such as Werner Herzog’s Cobra Verde (1987) and the 1971 concert film Soul to Soul featuring Ike & Tina Turner, Wilson Pickett, Santana and others. But even most of the residents of this African country haven’t seen any movies made in Ghana either because they don’t really have a film industry. Nor do they have anything that comes close to the local mall cinema. That’s why video clubs and traveling cinemas became so popular during the eighties when the VHS market became a worldwide phenomenon. So even if Ghana didn’t have a national cinema of its own, it had the last laugh by imposing its own identity on the hand-painted posters for films like DOLLY DEAREST (1991), a Child’s Play ripoff with Denise Crosby, Sam Bottoms and Rip Torn, that replaces the Caucasian cast with African actors in this version.

Below are some of my favorite Ghanaian film posters; several are featured in Ghanavision but others come from other collections or the internet, either through the generosity of other collectors or fans.

It’s been more than 32 years since I’ve seen THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977) so my memory is a little vague on the plot. But I don’t think it was about a menage a trois between a spy, a femme fatale and a fish.

Ghana poster version of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK

Ghana poster version of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK

I like the straightforward simplicity of this version of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981).

Now here’s a uniquely revisionist version of CUJO. I never thought of the killer dog as a basset hound. Not scary but it is crazy weird.

01_Witches_Com

How could any movie live up to a poster like this?

Here is another Nigerian-made feature which actually spawned a sequel that is depicted in the above poster. Anything with skeletons is always a good thing.

There are countless more film posters from Ghana out there on the web, in collectors’ private holdings and still being created for exhibition in Ghana where they are much more popular than the official film poster for obvious reasons. Wouldn’t you love to see American film distributors take this approach and start using individual artists to render their vision or version of the movie? Check out the below links:

Buy the Book GHANAVISION at Bongout http://www.xn--bongot-0ya.com/

Buy posters at

Ghana Movie Posters  http://www.ghanamovieposters.com/servlet/StoreFront

 See More at

 Ephemera Assemblyman http://assemblyman-eph.blogspot.com/

 Dutch Poster Museum  http://www.affichemuseum.nl/nl/435207beabe90

 Dang   http://charliegower.typepad.com/dang/2009/08/ghana-film-poster.html

 Endless Bummer  http://hamthechimp.wordpress.com/2009/09/02/ghanan-movie-posters/

 Type Brighter Too  http://typebrighter.tumblr.com/

 Little Hokum Rag  http://amycrehore.blogspot.com/2009_08_01_archive.html

Species 2 (film poster from Ghana)

Here is my all-time favorite tagline of any Ghanaian film poster: “The sexiest alien in the universe is back”   Really? Which one is it?

38 Responses Ghanavision: Hand-Painted Film Posters from Ghana
Posted By Medusa : October 10, 2009 12:19 pm

These are charming, amazing, beautiful, exciting…and get a look at the tail on that fish in the James Bond poster! Menage a trois is right! I realize sometimes a fishtail is just a fishtail, but I’m not so sure in this case.

I’m thinking the title on the first poster should really be “I ATE My Village”.

What an amazing find and thanks for sharing! Wow! Love these!

Posted By Medusa : October 10, 2009 12:19 pm

These are charming, amazing, beautiful, exciting…and get a look at the tail on that fish in the James Bond poster! Menage a trois is right! I realize sometimes a fishtail is just a fishtail, but I’m not so sure in this case.

I’m thinking the title on the first poster should really be “I ATE My Village”.

What an amazing find and thanks for sharing! Wow! Love these!

Posted By Suzi Doll : October 10, 2009 5:51 pm

Collectively, these posters are the coolest thing I have seen in months. I am sending this link to every movie buff I know.

Posted By Suzi Doll : October 10, 2009 5:51 pm

Collectively, these posters are the coolest thing I have seen in months. I am sending this link to every movie buff I know.

Posted By keelsetter : October 11, 2009 2:17 pm

Must… Have… SLEEPWALKERS poster!!!!!!!!

Awesome.

Posted By keelsetter : October 11, 2009 2:17 pm

Must… Have… SLEEPWALKERS poster!!!!!!!!

Awesome.

Posted By jim : October 12, 2009 9:04 pm

Where can you buy one?
Thanks

Posted By jim : October 12, 2009 9:04 pm

Where can you buy one?
Thanks

Posted By Matt Patton : October 18, 2009 4:08 pm

Actually the fish in the poster for THE SPY WHO LOVED ME is probably a reference to the villain’s underwater lair. I also like the abstracted drawing of Bond’s white Lotus car.

Posted By Matt Patton : October 18, 2009 4:08 pm

Actually the fish in the poster for THE SPY WHO LOVED ME is probably a reference to the villain’s underwater lair. I also like the abstracted drawing of Bond’s white Lotus car.

Posted By algi : October 18, 2009 4:45 pm

Did you notice that the poster of Raiders of the Lost Ark is actually about Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom?

Posted By algi : October 18, 2009 4:45 pm

Did you notice that the poster of Raiders of the Lost Ark is actually about Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom?

Posted By Quesi : October 18, 2009 5:07 pm

Check out the source: Joel’s assemblyman blog at http://assemblyman-eph.blogspot.com/

Posted By Quesi : October 18, 2009 5:07 pm

Check out the source: Joel’s assemblyman blog at http://assemblyman-eph.blogspot.com/

Posted By Matthew : October 18, 2009 5:22 pm

“Then there’s the ubiquitous Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger pictures featuring movie action heroes who are so entrenched in the culture that their likeness is recognized everywhere in the world from South America to New Zealand to Senegal.”

As somebody who is actually from New Zealand I’d like to point out that nobody there would recognize any of those actors.

Posted By Matthew : October 18, 2009 5:22 pm

“Then there’s the ubiquitous Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger pictures featuring movie action heroes who are so entrenched in the culture that their likeness is recognized everywhere in the world from South America to New Zealand to Senegal.”

As somebody who is actually from New Zealand I’d like to point out that nobody there would recognize any of those actors.

Posted By joel : October 18, 2009 9:50 pm

oh and jim you can buy some here —> http://www.ghanamovieposters.com/servlet/StoreFront

Posted By joel : October 18, 2009 9:50 pm

oh and jim you can buy some here —> http://www.ghanamovieposters.com/servlet/StoreFront

Posted By joel : October 19, 2009 12:17 am

here it is again, for those censored from it:
I’m a big fan of TCM (Robert Osborne is a big celebrity at my house), but it’s only decent to cite/link where you take the content you post from.
Many of these images come from GhanaMoviePosters.com and Killers of Canvas @ the Dutch Poster Museum and more still from Rene Wanner’s Poster Page and even more come from my scans of Ernie Wolfe, Ernie Wolfe III, John Yau, Roy Sieber’s fascinating book Extreme Canvas: Movie Poster Paintings from Ghana, that were posted on my blog several months back.
Jeff please link and cite where you downloaded these images from, you could get kicked out of college for such things and I hope that a big company like TCM (and one of the biggest companies, Time Warner Company) would know better.
thanks

Posted By joel : October 19, 2009 12:17 am

here it is again, for those censored from it:
I’m a big fan of TCM (Robert Osborne is a big celebrity at my house), but it’s only decent to cite/link where you take the content you post from.
Many of these images come from GhanaMoviePosters.com and Killers of Canvas @ the Dutch Poster Museum and more still from Rene Wanner’s Poster Page and even more come from my scans of Ernie Wolfe, Ernie Wolfe III, John Yau, Roy Sieber’s fascinating book Extreme Canvas: Movie Poster Paintings from Ghana, that were posted on my blog several months back.
Jeff please link and cite where you downloaded these images from, you could get kicked out of college for such things and I hope that a big company like TCM (and one of the biggest companies, Time Warner Company) would know better.
thanks

Posted By john : October 19, 2009 12:22 am

Hand Painted Movie Posters from Ghana at http://www.bongoût.com/

Posted By john : October 19, 2009 12:22 am

Hand Painted Movie Posters from Ghana at http://www.bongoût.com/

Posted By morlockjeff : October 19, 2009 10:02 am

Actually Joel, images of Ghana film posters are all over the web and most of the ones I got didn’t come from the sites you list above but I’m happy to include them anyway. I actually scanned a few from the book too which is highly recommended and you can buy it at http://www.bongout.com. Maybe they’ll do a sequel.

Posted By morlockjeff : October 19, 2009 10:02 am

Actually Joel, images of Ghana film posters are all over the web and most of the ones I got didn’t come from the sites you list above but I’m happy to include them anyway. I actually scanned a few from the book too which is highly recommended and you can buy it at http://www.bongout.com. Maybe they’ll do a sequel.

Posted By Rotterdammerung : October 19, 2009 3:46 pm

“As somebody who is actually from New Zealand I’d like to point out that nobody there would recognize any of those actors.”

Matthew, just wait until New Zealand gets color internet and we introduce “downloading” to you! You’ll be a Van Damme man faster than you can say Goodbye Pork Pie!

Posted By Rotterdammerung : October 19, 2009 3:46 pm

“As somebody who is actually from New Zealand I’d like to point out that nobody there would recognize any of those actors.”

Matthew, just wait until New Zealand gets color internet and we introduce “downloading” to you! You’ll be a Van Damme man faster than you can say Goodbye Pork Pie!

Posted By joel : October 19, 2009 7:14 pm

Jeff – several of the pictures clearly did come from my site. You can easily tell the ones that I scanned/posted from the gray around the edges, which I filled to match the background of my blog.
BUT the greater point is that you should not just take images from “all over the web” without citing or linking the sites from which you took them. This is proper etiquette (decency really) and in many cases legally required because of licensing.
Thank you for acknowledging my comment this time around, and not deleting it (at least not the whole thing) as you did before. But you still have failed to cite or link where you took the images.

Posted By joel : October 19, 2009 7:14 pm

Jeff – several of the pictures clearly did come from my site. You can easily tell the ones that I scanned/posted from the gray around the edges, which I filled to match the background of my blog.
BUT the greater point is that you should not just take images from “all over the web” without citing or linking the sites from which you took them. This is proper etiquette (decency really) and in many cases legally required because of licensing.
Thank you for acknowledging my comment this time around, and not deleting it (at least not the whole thing) as you did before. But you still have failed to cite or link where you took the images.

Posted By Michael Dexter : October 19, 2009 11:21 pm

Iam looking for a 1950′s movie set in the Swiss Alps sort of like the The Mist. Opening scene three climbers on a mountain one climber screams and falls .He is caught, but when he is pulled up he has no head. The story is set in a pass in the
Alps. There is mist like fog that hids creatures with a head and a bunch of arms. Any help. Thank you

Posted By Michael Dexter : October 19, 2009 11:21 pm

Iam looking for a 1950′s movie set in the Swiss Alps sort of like the The Mist. Opening scene three climbers on a mountain one climber screams and falls .He is caught, but when he is pulled up he has no head. The story is set in a pass in the
Alps. There is mist like fog that hids creatures with a head and a bunch of arms. Any help. Thank you

Posted By morlockjeff : October 20, 2009 9:49 am

Michael, you’re thinking of THE CRAWLING EYE aka The Trollenberg Terror

Posted By morlockjeff : October 20, 2009 9:49 am

Michael, you’re thinking of THE CRAWLING EYE aka The Trollenberg Terror

Posted By morlockjeff : October 20, 2009 10:44 am

OK, I have updated the post with various Ghana film poster sources. Are there any others I should add for those who are interested? My initial intention was to raise awareness of this great book from Bongout. I’m sorry I didn’t list sources and links the first time.

Posted By morlockjeff : October 20, 2009 10:44 am

OK, I have updated the post with various Ghana film poster sources. Are there any others I should add for those who are interested? My initial intention was to raise awareness of this great book from Bongout. I’m sorry I didn’t list sources and links the first time.

Posted By joel : October 20, 2009 11:38 am

thank you kindly Jeff.

Posted By joel : October 20, 2009 11:38 am

thank you kindly Jeff.

Posted By Maria : October 20, 2009 11:43 am

Bongout also had an exhibition in their Berlin gallery this summer.
It was a great show !

They also sell some of the posters from their own collection.

http://www.xn--bongot-0ya.com/artists/ghana_movie_posters_2.html

Posted By Maria : October 20, 2009 11:43 am

Bongout also had an exhibition in their Berlin gallery this summer.
It was a great show !

They also sell some of the posters from their own collection.

http://www.xn--bongot-0ya.com/artists/ghana_movie_posters_2.html

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