Ghanaian artists join UNICEF mission on open defecation

By D.I. Laary, GNA

Accra, Sept. 6, GNA
– More than 15 talented Ghanaian artists, have planned to display their
handworks as part of a countrywide campaign to combat open defecation, which
kills nearly 4,000 children every year through diarrhoea.

Works of the local
artists of different mediums are expected to rouse public discourse in market
squares, public transport [trotro], offices and airwaves, and further the
mission of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on the matter.

The move seeks to
inspire traditional authorities and policy makers to place the debate into
government and institutional circles.

The artists are
working around the project titled: “Let’s talk shit”, which is fronted by
Alliance Franciase in collaboration with UNICEF and the Ministry of Local
Government and Rural Development;

Various mediums of
fine art such as painting, sculpture, photography and video would be used to
display how shitting outside designated toilets threaten public health and
balloon government budget on dealing with poor sanitation.

The artists would
seek to create a conversation with people through visual arts by exhibiting
pieces of their works at the national level and in communities.

Their models are to
challenge existing Ghanaian social and cultural norms that perpetuate
activities of free range.

“The intended
programme is to involve Ghanaian artists in talking about issues pertaining to
open defecation,” Mr Fabrice Laurentin, Communication for Development
Specialist at UNICEF told journalists during a visit to the shops of six of artists.

The tour enabled
the media to interact with the artists expressing their views on issues
concerning open defecation through the use of visual arts.

The team visited
Nana Afari Darko, a sculptor, based in Koforidua in the Eastern Region and
Bright Akwerh, Satirical Illustrator, Mohammed Awudu, Graffitist, Fiona Aku,
Videographer, Henry Obimpeh, Photographer as well as Kwesi Botchway, Painter,
all based in Accra.

“We really are
looking at challenging the cultural norms and see how we can say things differently
using Ghanaian artists [working with different mediums],” Mr Laurentin said.

About one billion
people, or 15 per cent of the global population, practice open defecation, and
in sub Saharan Africa, 39 million people shit outside in Nigeria while in
Ghana, over five million people defecate in the open.

According to
education management information system, more than two in five basic schools in
Ghana have no toilets while the World Health Organisation states that 3,600
children under five die annually in the country from diarrhoea.

Ghana has also been
ranked seventh with the lowest sanitation coverage, and officials say it would
take the country 500 years to bring an end to open defecation, if the current
pace of fighting the problem is not redoubled.

Mr Laurentin said:
“In fact, people are shocked when we use the word shit but people are not
shocked by the fact that five million Ghanaian people do not have access to
toilet or that two out of five basic schools do not have toilet and to water.”

The “let’s talk
shit” programme, Mr Laurentin explained, is to create a buzz around issues of
open defecation that make people talk about it more often and challenge social
norms that perpetuate the act.

It is to create a
dialogue with communities using visual arts by exhibiting pieces of art to
people in their local areas and to make a case of how visual art could
contribute to raising social and public health issues.

“I think “let’s
talk shit” is a big project that I really felt in love with because it is the
first time it gives artists the chance to be able to talk about open
defecation,” Kwesi Botchway, Painter told reporters.

“It will help to
inspire people and also put them on the level where they can keep good
sanitation to reduce some of the issues such as cholera and diarrhoea,” he

He explained that
his work would touch on how elderly persons visit public toilets and fail to
direct their faeces into designated holes by ending up to soiling the entire
place, making it nauseating to other users.

“The work I am
going to talk about is shit in the hole, it is really crazy sometimes to see
how elderly people visit the public toilets and do not keep it clean, public
toilet is not for people who do not have toilet in their houses but for
everyone,” Botchway said.

The artists are due
to submit more than 15 pieces of art depicting issues of shitting in the open
at an exhibition on September 28, followed by showing it selected communities.

A public debate
would be raised through the display of about 20 pieces of art in public spaces
like durbars, universities and parliament as well as a five minute video
documenting process of producing the pieces of art.

Kanika Thakar,
Founder of #ToiletTalk was quoted as saying: “Let’s make the conversation more
accessible by saying what we mean.

“Even among those
working in the field, we constantly hide behind clean-sounding words like
sanitation, latrine, Wash [water sanitation and hygiene], open defecation.

“These words don’t
mean anything to the masses, so how can we drive action if we can’t even talk
about what we are doing?

“Let’s replace
words like sanitation and open defecation with toilets and shitting outside.”


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