‘Colonial virus’? Creative arts and public understanding of COVID-19 in Ghana

by Ama de-Graft Aikins

09 Dec 2020
Journal of the British Academy, volume 8 (2020)
https://doi.org/10.5871/jba/008.401
14

Abstract: In this paper I examine how responses to COVID-19 by Ghana’s creative arts communities shape public understanding of the pandemic. I focus on comedy, music, textile designs, and murals created between March and August 2020, through frameworks of the social psychology of everyday knowledge and arts and health. The art forms perform three functions: health promotion (songs), improving environmental aesthetics (murals), and memorialising (textile designs). Similar to arts-based interventions for HIV and Ebola, Ghanaian artists translate COVID-19 information in ways that connect emotionally, create social awareness, and lay the foundation for public understanding. Artists translate COVID-19 information in ways that connect emotionally, create social awareness, and lay the foundation for public understanding. Some offer socio-political critique, advocating social protection for poor communities, re-presenting collective memories of past health crises and inequitable policy responses, and theorising about the Western origins of COVID and coloniality of anti-African vaccination programmes. I consider the implications for COVID public health communication and interventions.

Keywords: COVID-19, Ebola, HIV, creative arts, collective memory, coloniality, public understanding, public health communication, Ghana.

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