Korkor Amarteifio started her career in the seventies in Montreal, where she created a platform for artists from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. She was also a member of the Canadian Arts Council. In Ghana she worked for the National Theatre until she founded the Institute for Music Development in 2004.
Korkor Amarteifio was surprised when she discovered how much attention contemporary artists are getting in Montreal. They could be seen and heard everywhere: at festivals, in radio programs, in galleries. An entirely different situation than in Ghana, her land of birth to which she returned in 1993 to assume the position of program director of the National Theatre. There, traditional culture still had top priority. Korkor: "The government is familiar with it; they are convinced that we must not lose our culture. But the government does not ask itself: what is our culture? It insists that we organise traditional festivals even though culture is always changing. That mentality stems from our colonial past. But it will only generate a new ghetto. Contemporary artists are a new minority. They are invisible and have no voice in advisory committees. During the Expo in Japan, the African pavilion displayed only traditional masks; not a single example of contemporary art was to be found. It was a wasted opportunity."
In general, culture is not assigned central focus in Ghana. Art is not included in the average school curriculum. "It is an activity for Friday afternoon, when the teachers are tired and looking forward to the weekend", says Korkor, who is currently the director of the Institute for Music Development in Accra, with shades of irony. "The Ministry of culture is the weakest link in the Ghanaian government: it receives the least amount of money. With that, the government is communicating that culture is completely unimportant. The ministry is really little more than window dressing. They say that the other ministries are helping to combat poverty. We are trying to make the government understand how cultural businesses can strengthen the economy. Allocating more money to culture will also ensure that Ghanaian artists stay in Ghana. Now they are departing and helping to enrich other cultures."
Korkor has noticed a cautious glimmer of change in mentality among Ghana's political leaders. "The government is showing a bit more interest in cultural affairs," she says. "Cultural diversity and stimulating cultural businesses are now part of the national strategic plan for combating poverty." The resources that the ARTerial Network can supply for lobbying activities are particularly useful in Ghana. "Many of the people in Ghana's cultural sector did not even know that the Nairobi Plan of Action existed until ARTerial Network pointed it out to them. They are not aware of the international instruments that our government has signed, so they cannot supervise their actual ratification. Now everyone has the text and knows what it means."