An unusual collection of hand-painted movie posters adorn the walls of the Chigaco-based Deadly Prey Gallery. Frequently gory and occasionally downright bizarre, these artworks were made to grab the viewer’s attention by standing out from the norm.
These posters were once the product of a much larger industry – the ‘Ghanian Mobile Cinema’. In the late 1980’s a few industrious groups formed ‘video clubs’ to bring a range of films to Ghanian communities lacking access to cinemas. Armed with a television, VCR, VHS tapes and a portable generator, they travelled Ghana setting up makeshift movie screenings. An interesting selection of films became popular, including Hollywood action and horror, low budget American schlock, Bollywood films, Hong Kong martial arts movies, and native Ghanaian and Nigerian features.
As more people gained interest in this rising business, competition arose. Mobile cinema operators found a need to set their products apart, so an advertising motif came into play. With no affordable access to printing, the hand-painted movie poster was the most logical advertising vehicle. Skilled local artists were now part of this growing entertainment industry in Ghana, each bringing their own distinct touch to every film they were called upon to promote.
Canvases were created by sewing two flour sacks together. Each unique poster varies in size ranging from 40-50” wide x 55-70” high. The ruggedness of these posters is immediately noticed: though a specific poster might only be 10-20 years old, it’s appearance will far surpass its actual age due to the toll one takes from constant transit, being rolled, folded or left to suffer the elements.
Today, access to printing is far less expensive and movies have become more accessible to the general public in Ghana. The mobile cinema has all but passed away but these hand-painted movie posters remain a wonderful, tangible product of the time.
Deadly Prey Gallery is a space dedicated to West African poster and sign art, created by brother and sister duo Brian and Heidi Anne Chankin. The gallery name was borrowed from the pair’s favourite movie, the 1987 title starring Ted Prior; a crazy, OTT action movie which has attained cult status amongst movie buffs. Whilst not widely known, the movie attracted a certain mainstream appeal in Ghana with audiences likening it to familiar titles such as The Terminator or Rambo. Who could think of a more fitting title?