Moh Awodu is a renowned contemporary artist originally from Nima, a multicultural and Muslim dominated neighbourhood in the suburbs of Accra, Ghana. He is known for creating incredibly captivating graffiti murals around social and environmental issues in Africa. He is the founder of Ghana Graffiti and has had some of his work been featured on BBC Africa and several other international and local media. He is also on Imago Mundi list of the most talented artist in Africa.
Born and brought up in a neighbourhood that is perceived to be dangerous and full of crime, Moh Awudu set out to redefine and change not only the narrative of his beloved Nima but Ghana and the continent of Africa as a whole.
I have known him for about 4 years now, first got captivated by his work at Chale Wote street art festival in 2014 where I stopped to greet him and share my passion for his art and appreciation for this creative ingenuity. The years that followed saw us crossing paths with one another at different programs where we were both invited to speak and other times where he was exhibiting his masterpieces.
He is our 1st guest on the Living Fully Interview Series with young and creative African entrepreneurs, social changemakers and professionals from around the world.
I did not even have a website when this interview was conducted, He was leaving to Paris a day after the interview so it was very interactive as we started out in his home at Nima, then went around his neighbourhood where he shared with me some of his work and collaborative pieces on the walls. We then proceeded to Oxford street Osu where he got his supplies for his trip and spend the rest of the afternoon talking and exploring the Osu Castle before we parted ways.
He is one of the most talented people I have ever come across who is re-known but never distracted by the fame he has and is ever committed to getting better in his craft every single day, so below is an overview of my interview with him and I hope you find insights (Artists, young creatives and change-makers) the inspiration to harness your full potential, stay consistent in your pursuit of excellence and live fully.
Take us through your journey: how and when did your love for art start?
From age 11, I recognize my love for creating and painting, so I knew I was either gonna be an artist or a musician! I would take colour chalks and paint on the board in my schools, on my dad’s furniture and any wall I could find around in my area. I just wanted to express myself!
So in the early 2000s, one day I was going to the Kanda library and I saw a guy called Muzi’ashi painting a house, I stopped and looked at him and went to ask if he could teach me how to paint. A few weeks later I became his apprentice and started to paint buildings and create billboard design. then over time, I learnt to make print design on T-shirts, so started making customize shirts with slogans and message of pride for my community members to make counter statements to debunk myths about us. I graduated to start creating cinema posters and flyers for events and the journey continued
You are currently known for your specialization in Graffiti Art
Give us some perspective how did the transition happen?
I am a naturally born artist and I think the transition is growth where I think my thoughts are bigger than just painting and creating art in people’s homes and galleries.
So It comes from the desire to use responsibly and to make a contribution to the world by speaking with and engaging a larger audience – that’s when and why I started doing graffiti.
Which would you say has been the most relevant to you? would you say that formal or continuous education has been impacted your craft the most?
Formal education gave me the basis, continuous self-education, mentorship and daily practice is giving me the edge.
What have been some of the greatest challenges you faced as an artist working with others?
Mainly is a commitment to show up on time, to do quality work and over-deliver when I am working with an upcoming artist on a project. The artist needs to focus on building a good reputation by delivering quality work and ensuring they act with integrity when working with others.
Other than that, I also face challenges with some clients who don’t recognize the premium value of my work, but over time it is changing.
Are they any women who have supported and empowered you?
Yes a lot: My Mom, My Girlfriend (now wife), Madam Acrylic, AMA – Mayor assistant among others. I believe women are the future so we must support and empower them.
What are some issues you seek to address using your art?
Primarily I do not just create a beautiful piece of art, everything I create intends to convey a message to provoke thoughts, behavioural and social change or raise awareness about existing issues varying from social, cultural, historical or environmental.
Among the topics, I am passionate about and seek to project in my work is Girl Child Education, Women Empowerment, Unity, Non-Violence, Futuristic art and African Culture.
What is your inspiration?
He replied I am inspired by everyday life, by knowing that I can use my art to change the narratives, to influence positive behavioural and social change and to empower communities economically.
Let’s talk about the Internet, how do you use digital platform, tools and social media in your work?
I promote my work online and share with the world through social media that way I can attract the right people to work, mentor, be mentored and collaborate with on projects.
Continuous Education is key so I commit to learning from the successful artist through youtube and other video platforms, I think we can learn anything now if we want to because it is all online
Who are some of the organization you have worked with on a project?
There are so many of them frankly, but among those are at the IV International Biennial Graffiti Fine Art Festival in Brazil, Red.org, British Council in Ghana, several UN agencies in Ghana, Accra Metropolitan Assembly, Acrylics Ghana among other organizations.
How many artists have you collaborated with so far?
Locally I have collaborated with over 15 artists working on private and public projects with different organizations and voluntarily mainly in Accra – Ghana.
Internationally, through work done in Brazil, Nigeria, Togo, France, I have worked with over 80 artists around the world
You are very passionately about Ghana, what is your dream for the city of Accra?
Make Accra the Street Art capital of Africa at par with Sao Paulo, Miami, Paris and San Antonio; that way we can boost tourism and socio-cultural awareness about varying issues.
What does the future look like for Moh?
At the heart of it is fostering unity and collaborative work with other artists in communities to inspire every African to never be afraid of expressing themselves especially with art: so I want
To establish an art school for kids to nurture their creativity and open an art studio
Champion a Graffiti Art Festival in Ghana and do a West African Graffiti tour
Participate and Exhibit in International Art and Graffiti Festivals all over the world
Collaborate with other artists, musicians, social change agents and creatives in Africa towards a more positive image of our continent
Maybe also start a clothing line, can’t tell! Everything is possible
What are the best tips you can give to a young artist starting out?
Be passionate and relentless
Be committed to delivering on time
Be honest in your dealings with others
Work with dignity, honour and integrity
Be committed to learning, growing and improving your craft
Do not be afraid to walk away from projects that don’t align with your principles and standards
Where can we find your work? What city? What country?
Hahaha, he smiled! 1st thing 1st Nima, Jamestown, Osu and Accra Central Business district area among other places in Ghana.
In Brazil, at the famous Alma da Rua gallery, Braslando favela, Lapa train station, ibis budget hotel and the world-famous street art centre gallery, alma da Rua in São Paulo.
In New York at RED office: a global fund to end HIV/AIDs.
In Nigeria, at different locations in Ikeja Lagos
In Casablanca Morocco at casa mouja
What do you do in your free time?
Sleep and spending time with my friends and family! But really he laughed and said Art is my everything!
How can anyone interested in following your journey or working with you find you?
Before you go, What does Africans Living Fully mean to you?
It means to believe, to commit and be responsible for creating the life we want no matter where we come from!
Any Last word
No matter where you come from, you have everything within you to make a difference in your life and the lives of others, stop doubting yourself, start nurturing your talent and share your gift with the world!
PS: His future plans are already in motion, he already teaches kids art, he is working on the west Africans graffiti tour, he and his team are changing the walls of Accra working with the AMA on the Accra for Art initiative and fast becoming a huge tourist destination thanks to the year of return.
Go live your dreams!! Start today!