Ghana’s movie posters from the 1980s and 1990s became popular over the last years due to their intriguing visuals. The 80s and 90s saw a rise in mobile cinema businesses around Ghana, bringing film screenings to villages and rural areas which lacked theatres or electricity.
According to CNN, the pop-up movie houses brought film screenings to villages and rural areas that didn’t have theatres or electricity. These temporary “video clubs” typically involved a diesel generator, VCR, and TV or projector loaded onto a truck. They would travel around the country showing Hollywood, Bollywood, and West African films.
The mobile cinemas needed a creative way to advertise their films but because the country’s military rulers had prohibited the import of printing presses at the time, they lacked the original movie posters or a way to print alternatives.
They resorted to commissioning local artists who hand-painted them on used flour sacks. They were large, usually 40 to 50 inches in width, and 55 to 70 inches in height. Known for their “garish, exuberant style, full of muscles, blood, and exaggerated features,” the originals have become popular and pricey in the art world.
“They were designed to sell movie tickets, it was all about getting people through the doors,” said Brian Chankin, a dealer and collector, told the outlet. “So the vibe really was to try and make each poster as unique as possible, not to mention as crazy as possible.”
Sometimes, the artists depicted imagery that wasn’t in the films (like Michael Jordan holding a gun in Space Jam). “I sometimes watched the movies and picked some actions from it,” artist Heavy Jay told CNN. “But if the movie was so boring, then I had to do it by my own imagination, which mostly features some images and actions that (were) not in the movies, to attract more people to go watch them.”
Joe Mensah, Nyen Kumah, Leonardo, Socrates, Death is Wonder, Frank Armah, and D.A. Jasper were some of the most popular artists.
Chankin started collecting the posters around 10 years ago. In 2015, he opened Deadly Prey Gallery, a Chicago-based studio that works with Ghanaian artists. According to Chankin, the most requested posters are “Predator, Terminator, anything with Kurt Russell, anything with (Jean-Claude) Van Damme,” adding, “Horror is arguably the most popular genre.”.
You can view more of the posters at The Deadly Prey Gallery.