First published: Summer 2024
Kwame Akoto is one of many Ghanaian artists holding up the rich tradition of commercial roadside art studios


Kwame Akoto begins a series of toe-touches, high kicks, and spinning jumps with kung-fu grunts. His six apprentices diligently follow their master’s moves. The exercise routine takes place at the end of a long, hot day in Akoto’s art studio which is a courtyard surrounded by mechanics’ workshops. In the background is the incessant noise of the city traffic of Kumasi, in southern Ghana. The finger-tip press-ups don’t seem to faze Akoto who, at 73, outpowers his young novices.


Akoto at work in 2023; photo: I Jackson; courtesy: The Museum and Gallery of Everything


Akoto is also known as “Almighty God”, after the name of the art studio he established in 1991. He paints, bolt upright and highly focused, sitting on a bench splattered with paint, beneath the shade of some trees. Next to him, in a refurbished shipping container, his wife Faustina Appiah prepares food for her take-away food business. When talking to visitors about his paintings, “Almighty” will suddenly burst into song, switching from a high operatic tenor to a rich baritone, before continuing to chat. His faith and conversion to Christianity are the focus of his conversation and also feature prominently in his art with quotes from the Bible precisely painted in a script font with neat serif flicks.


Kwame Akoto, The Drunkard Mr Oti, 2011, 52 x 39 in. / 132.5 x 99 cm


Akoto is very much part of a Western African roadside sign-writing tradition, a commercial art practice that meets a demand for advertising, signage and vehicle livery, as well as commemorative portraits. Born in 1950, Akoto was apprenticed for six years, from the age of 16, in two studios: Addai and Kobia Arts, in Kumasi. He then began his own workshop.


Kwame Akoto, Skull of Sinners, 2016, acrylic and oil on canvas, 36 x 47.5 in. / 91 x 120 cm, courtesy: The Museum and Gallery of Everything




This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #119.

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