Sights and Sounds of Accra (2020)
Last year, while working in Ghana for the first time, I found myself collecting samples of the subtle things I saw, felt, and heard around the city of Accra.
Sights and Sounds of Accra (2020) by Keleenna Onyeaka is a montage of video clips shot on his iPhone meant to be the first film contribution to A Glimpse of a Continent – a body of street photography projects exploring the perception of everyday life in African cities. The visual serves as a glimpse of the subtle rhythms of nature, history, and music in Accra.
Due to the pandemic, Keleenna was not able to produce his third street photography exhibition, titled A Glimpse of Accra, however, he found a way to pivot and adapt, which pushed him to learn new skills and explore moving images as a medium for storytelling, expression, and investigation. In sharing the project, he “hope[s] this montage brings you the same level of peace and happiness that [he] found in Accra.” Keleenna describes his time in Ghana as a part of the media team for Afronation, and how recent world events have shaped his work.
How did the pandemic affect your work?
I’ve always had a deep appreciation for the art of moving images. In addition to that, I almost see the film as the ultimate medium in which multiple art forms can come together. Given I wasn’t able to shoot much during the lockdown, it forced me to explore my fascination with film. I took an online film course and tasked myself with putting together a montage from the random clips I had taken during my work trip to Ghana in 2019.
Can you tell me when and how the idea “A Glimpse of a Continent” came to mind?
I came across a piece of work that didn’t sit well with me in Lagos. It was supposed to tell a “street” story of Lagos, but after speaking with the photographer I found out all the images were staged and pre-conceived. While I appreciated the efforts by the photography to capture the unique stories and diversity of Lagos, I felt too much of his gaze was in the work, which is fine, but I think unless this is made clear, we run risks of a continuation of the non-black agency over black people through the portrayal of black people in the world today. My first body of work titled A Glimpse of Lagos (2018) was a direct response to this experience and a bid to prove that you can capture the individual uniqueness and diversity in Lagos simply by looking and freezing what you see in front of you.
The clips included in your montage, what made you capture those moments in particular?
Most of them are images that I felt would have served just as well had they been still images. By that I mean the majority of my technical thought went into the composition, most of the time fixing that composition to allow the motion and sounds of the subjects to take front stage. In terms of the inspiration behind the subjects, I captured things I felt represented the fine “details” of my trip. Water, music, and history featured heavily during my trip and make up the majority of what I captured.
Will water play a role in future installments for “A Glimpse of a Continent”?
Naturally, I would say yes, the relationship between Africa and water is too deep and complicated for it to not surface in future works. I think the difference will be how much of an influence it would have had at the time of shooting and how if I decide to focus on it as part of the story. I’m definitely still unpacking my affinity with water, however, for now, permit me to quote the great Fela Kuti:
I dey talk of black power, I say (water e no get enemy)
I say water no get enemy (water e no get enemy)
If you fight am, unless you wan die
– “Water No Get Enemy” by Fela Kuti (1975)
What cities are you looking to explore next?
In October of 2020, I went to Tanzania and was fortunate enough to explore multiple parts of the country (Arusha, Serengeti, Dar es Salaam, Stone Town, and other parts of Zanzibar). I would say my gaze features in this work a lot more than in my other projects, I found myself playing with a lot of motion blur, but, I think it is strongly correlated to where I was in Life at that point in time and so I’m excited to take ownership of my gaze, not to hide from it, and hope I can use it as a platform to go further in the conversations A Glimpse of a Continent aims to serve.
Keleenna Onyeaka continues to share his experience and showcases personal collections of his work; on display online via his personal site. You can also view A Glimpse of Port Harcourt (2019), an installment of his journalistic project.
All visuals © Keleenna Onyeaka