The purpose of Advancing Creative Industries for Development in Ghana (ACIG) is to generate new knowledge of creative industries in Ghana, which will drive understandings of creative and cultural industries forward and shape theorization and policy making. But how will we do this? Our first all team workshop was designed to answer this question and lay the foundation for years of fieldwork and research activity.
Understanding something as complex as the development of the creative industries requires a multiplicity of perspectives. Interdisciplinary is at the heart of ACIG, as was abundantly clear once the team was assembled at the University of Ghana Business School. What struck me immediately was the diversity of experience gathered together in the room. We had geographers and lawyers, experts in creative labour and in business, sociologists and theatre and visual arts scholars. And we also had researchers blending practice and traditional academic methods, and those with hands on experience working in the creative industries in Ghana.
With the team assembled, we began an intense week of discussions and planning about researching creative and cultural industries in Ghana.
Across the week we heard presentations from each work package laying out their empirical plans and raising important conceptual questions to guide the project. For example, the creative policy team asked the question: “What does ‘good quality’ evidence for policy making look like in Ghana?” Policy interventions are needed in this context, but the evidence base for policy making is crucial as both under and over regulation can stifle the development of creative industries. Hearing from many different stakeholders in the creative industries is vital so that those multiple views can be accounted for and used to create better policy interventions.
Understanding creative industries in Ghana also requires a multiplicity of methods, including innovative arts based methods. Rashida Resario, Sela Adjei, and Ana Alacovska all discussed using these methods in their work. For example, Sela presented his fascinating PhD work where he combined ethnography, visual art, and photography showing the potential of bold new ways of collecting research data. To give another example, Ana talked through her experience working with visual artists where she asked them to draw how they felt about their work. Here creatives could express themselves through their artwork, a mode where they feel comfortable, and communicate their feelings with researchers in a new way. Using art based methods is uniquely well suited to a project about creatives, and these methods will be used across the ACIG project.
Studying creative industries in Ghana, and elsewhere, is a complex task and we have to be careful about the words and labels we use as these shape how we approach the object of study. For example, how do we define artists? And how is this definition shaped by the relationship individuals have to the intellectual property regime? Relatedly, how do we place value on art? Which critics have the power to give art value, and where are they located? These questions must be approached from multiple angles.
ACIG will study performing arts, visual arts, fashion, and film. But we know that in Ghana many creatives work across these sectors. It is important to be mindful of the fluidity between industries and look at how creatives self-identify, rather than force them into sector boxes.
After an intense week together we emerged ready to start and looking forward to the next five years of research.
By Robin Steedman