Time and again, people are stigmatized and marginalized by communities for a supposed common good. Taking the remote Northern Region in the north of Ghana as an example, this exhibition is dedicated to the belief in witchcraft, which primarily turns women into scapegoats. Such beliefs exist in many regions of the world and are by no means limited to rural or educationally disadvantaged circles. Witch hunts still take place in more than 40 countries today.
On a joint journey through Ghana to Burkina Faso in 2005, the artists Ann-Christine Woehrl and Senam Okudzeto explored contemporary witch-hunts.
Witches in Exile focuses on women who were accused of witchcraft. Envy and resentment as well as the accusation of being responsible for diseases, deaths, droughts and other disasters made these women ostracized outsiders. Often in danger of death, they were exiled to so-called "witch camps". These camps, of which there are eight in Ghana today, are located in very remote areas, far away from the capital Accra. For this reason, few people in Ghana at the time were aware of their existence. Ann-Christine Woehrl shows these women in all their dignity and vulnerability - and with all their pride - in a haunting conceptual portrait series.
Senam Okudzeto illustrates the broader context of the witch villages and the portraits in a multimedia installation - consisting of photographs from Ann-Christine Woehrl's extended archive as well as her own photographs, drawings and paintings made especially for this exhibition. Senam Okudzeto talks about their joint journey through Ghana to the Northern Region, where she and Ann-Christine Woehrl visited two very different witch camps - Kukuo and Gambaga. Okudzeto and Woehrl's works illustrate the social and economic disparity that existed at the time between the northern areas cut off by the Volta Dam and the rapidly developing center of Ghana and its coastal regions with its capital Accra. This attempts to embed the portrait series, which was created between 2009 and 2013 in the villages of Gambaga and Gushiegu, in a more complex geographical, temporal, social, political, religious and also economic context.
The Museum Fünf Kontinente is taking the current political explosiveness of the topic in Ghana and the critical discourse there on witch-hunting and the closure of the witch villages as an opportunity to show Witches in Exile at this point in time. The Ghanaian historian Gertrude Nkrumah devotes herself to the socio-political issues of the current debate.
Senam Okudzeto is a British post-national artist of American and Ghanaian descent. She lives and works in Basel. Having lived in the US, UK, Europe and West Africa from a young age, she is both an insider and outsider to many different cultures. As a kind of translator of cultural experiences, her work incorporates West African, US and European perspectives. Okudzeto holds a PhD in Cultural Studies (London Consortium, Birkbeck College) and has studied painting at the Slade School of Fine Art, the Royal College of Art London and the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program (ISP).
Ann-Christine Woehrl, a German-French photographer, has been documenting the lives of women who are outsiders on the margins of society since the beginning of her career after her studies in Paris (including in Un/Sichtbar or Der Frieden trägt den Namen einer Frau). The Witches in Exile series has already been exhibited nationally and internationally, for example at the International Festival of Photography in Belo Horizonte (Brazil) and the Angkor Photo Festival in Cambodia. Witches in Exile was realized in cooperation with Simon Ngota, the founder of the Ghanaian NGO Witch-hunt Victims Empowerment Project in Ghana (further information at www.witches-in-exile.art).