Thanks to the internet, and the kind of circles your average Outposter movies in, most of us have seen at least a few hand-drawn Ghanian movie posters in our time. Once these were the preserve of travelers to far-flung lands, or purchasers of Ghanaian and Nigerian bootleg movies from the bag of a local entrepreneur in the car parks of less salubrious city center drinking establishments. Now they are a source of social media amusement. However, these have an interesting backstory.
A recent exhibition, African Gaze, was recently held in London that showcased this weird and wonderful art form. Examples of these were then spread on Twitter by the excellent All The Right Movies team, which is what reminded us of this wonder of cinema this morning.
The history of these posters begins with a movement known as Ghanaian Mobile Cinema and it started in the late 1980s. Entrepreneurial and industrious Ghanaians got together and realized the potential earnings from forming video clubs. Between them, they would gather a television, a VCR, a stack of movies on VHS tapes, and a portable generator. They’d travel throughout Ghana setting up makeshift screening areas in villages with no electricity. When one of these mobile cinemas came to your village it was a cause of high excitement.
Big Hollywood action and horror were very popular, as were low-budget American schlock and Hong Kong Martial Arts movies. This quickly became a lucrative local business and competition became fierce. As competition increased, mobile cinema operators needed to set their products apart, so they stumbled across the concept of sensationalized advertising as a sales tool.
With no affordable access to photocopiers or printing presses, the hand-painted movie poster was the most logical solution. The mobile cinema operation would now include a skilled local artist who would pre-promote the movie, often before they had even seen it themselves.
Their creations are now a thing of myth and legend.
So there you are. Not just bootleg VHS and DVD covers sold in car parks, but a legitimate advertising tool and now an art form. Here we share some of our favorites with you, our beloved Outposters, right now:
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