Tuesday, December 4, 2012


There was one case where a young girl was extremely bright and the allegation was that she had used witchcraft to take the intelligence of her classmates. So if you are a woman who is extremely bright, very astute at business, is able to amass wealth, a woman who is challenging and not docile, any of these can lead to allegations of witchcraft.  - Ajoa Kwarteng Kluvitse,The country director, Action aid (Ghana).
This does not apply to boys!
There has been a close analysis of gender, race and feminism since the beginning of time, to bring to bear the role of arts in addressing issues of great concern and this analysis includes the creation of images or objects in fields including painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and other visual media. Most of these works vividly address discrimination and other issues in history, culture, and society and that means they also serve as a platform for confronting problems that continue to face us today. This among others is what inspired me to put this piece together .In reference, Chadwick states that “our language and expectations about art have tended to rank that produced by women as below that produced by men in “quality”, resulting in lesser monetary value. This has profoundly influenced our knowledge and understanding of the contributions made by women to painting and sculpture”  (17). Although women have been influential in art as well as other areas, society consistently tries to limit how far women can go and all that forms the focus of this piece.            .
So how does art address witchcraft? To answer that question, I had to turn to history and I found this great artist:
Hans Baldung Grien (1484 – 1545)
Self portrait

He is considered the most gifted artist of Albrecht Dürer who was also a German painter, printmaker, mathematician, and theorist from Nuremberg. Durer’s prints established his reputation across Europe when he was still in his twenties, and he has been conventionally regarded as the greatest artist of the Northern Renaissance ever since. So Baldung brings to this project rich and great works. Also a German artist, Baldung developed a distinctive style, full of color, expression and imagination. His talents are varied, and he produced a great and extensive variety of work from portraits, woodcuts, altarpieces, drawing, tapestries, allegories and mythologies.

Hans Baldung Grien (1484-1545)
                       "The witches sabbath 1510"                          
An Accused witch”
"Witches camp", Northern Ghana


"Accused Witch"
Hans Baldung Grien (c. 1484 – 1545
"Witches camp", northern Ghana
courtesy: ghananation.org
Hans Baldung
Condemned female witches are burned at the stake (14C).
"Accused witch", yadu masam, northern Ghana.

Courtesy: http://www.zoeyoung.net/node/233
I don’t want to be here. Somebody decided I was a witch. My heart is dead – what I used to know, I don’t know any more…" Yadu Masam - Ngani ‘Witches’ Camp’, Ghana, 2010
When misfortune hits a village, there is a tendency in some countries to suspect a "witch" of casting a spell. In Ghana, outspoken or eccentric women may also be accused of witchcraft - and forced to live out their days together in witch camps. Today they are still run by local chiefs, and accommodate up to 1,000 women in spartan huts with no social amenities. Women are expected to be submissive so once you start to be outspoken in your views or even successful in your trade, people assume you must be possessed. A closer look finds no difference at how society today places women. On one side of the world is how art presents reality to us with refence to the great artists,Hans Baldung Grien, and the same is the case in the other part of the world where we look at feminism with reference to one of the most outstanding conceptual artists, Barbara Kruger. I begin with a quote from Guerilla Girls.
Women’s brains may not be capable of much but watch out for their bodies” (Guerilla Girls 16).
Kruger’s work often questions and critiques the forces that try to make women into objects, disallowing them subjectivity. Well versed in post-structuralism, Kruger blends text with image to deconstruct the tenets of traditional art. Barbara Kruger explores feminist theory through artistic expression.  Her work “Your gaze hits the side of my face” is one example of this. This image shows a photo of a classical female statue, the symbol of “beauty” in traditional art history, but undermines this interpretation by pointing out that the male gaze at the female object is an aggressive act that silences women from taking part in the discourse. Kruger's emphasis on breaking down socially constructed notions like "art" and "beauty" makes her works stand out. Her works bring to us the other side of the media and exposes how Americans are being sold the concept that women and girls’ value lies in their youth, beauty and sexuality. There is more to the expression of women as objects of beauty in the media than expected. Women are portrayed in ways that perpetuate the stereotypes and biases that are held against them.
Barbara Kruger

(Your Gaze Hits the Side of My Face) by Barbara Kruger, 1981
Suggesting themes of struggle, power, and control, Kruger’s image addresses complicated issues such as desire, sexism, consumerism and discrimination and encourages the viewer to question their own perceptions of these taboo topics. A large scale work by Barbara Kruger combines her signature bold text and graphics. She explores feminist theory through artistic expression as well as the patriarchy, consumerism and the male gaze.
Barbara Kruger
Hans Baldung (c. 1484 – 1545)
“The three ages of the Woman and Death” 1509-10
Barbara Kruger
Kruger’s “You Are Not Yourself”, uses this humorous technique to underscore a feminist point of view. The woman’s face looks stressed and upset. She’s wearing make-up and has her nails painted, like a lady should. The words ‘you are not yourself’ are disjointedly laid over a photograph of a distressed woman looking into a shattered mirror. This montage is immediately ironic because you are looking into a mirror, the object our culture relies on to reflect reality, but it is cracked and without its reassurance you are not yourself. Somehow without the recognition of the mirror, the axis of our culture, your own existence is in question. This begs the question why are you not yourself? Continuing with the theme of feminist art, Kruger is perhaps indicating that you are not yourself because our culture, ruled by the mirror and the media, mandates that you be one thing that you are not or possibly may never be. Feminism is at play here. The woman looking into the shattered mirror with a distressed face shows that she isn’t as confident as she should be. She is wearing makeup, trying to make herself up. She isn’t herself because she feels like she needs to dress and look a certain way, which isn’t her. Kruger is commenting on the unreality of the ideal female image portrayed by the media today which forms part of this project and until the world wakes up to the need for equality, I will work and continue to develop this idea through art to tell the story to the world.
For detailed article/project, click on this link

Chadwick, Whitney, Women, Art, and Society. New York: Thames & Hudson Ltd, London, 2007. Print
The Guerrilla Girls' Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art. New York: Penguin, 1998. Print.
Kruger, Barbara, profile/biography

Hoak, Dale,History Today Volume: 31 Issue: 2 1981, Witch-Hunting and Women in the Art of the Renaissance

Jones, Adam ,The European Witch-Hunts, c. 1450-1750 and Witch-Hunts Today http://www.gendercide.org/case_witchhunts.html
Ziem Joseph, Disbandment of Witches’ Camps should not Endanger Lives of the Victims, January 31, 2012

Whitaker, Kati, Ghana witch camps: Widows' lives in exile, Kukuo, northern Ghana, 31 August 2012
Kruger, Barbara, The Art History Archive - Feminist Art

YOUNG, ZOE, Evans Saskia  and Cuadrado, Andrea Bringing Balance: Bridging Worlds, 'What I Used To Know.. The Road To Ghana's 'Witches' Camps', March 2011

Baldung Grien, Hans (c. 1484 – 1545) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 26 November 2012.


  1. I extremely loved your post , what you did your research on was very interesting and I do hope you take you research paper and publish somewhere

  2. Thanks. I'm working on it to pass it on to the public.

  3. I think your message was very strong. We live in this world where things come kinda easy, we have the right to an opinion, and to do and say as we please. But to know someone living on the same earth we do would get treated this way.

  4. I really liked your presentation because you could tell that you did your research and it seemed like you really care about the topic. I found it very intresting and entertaining thank you for sharing this with us.