JC African Griot Center for African Popular Culture

Center for African Popular Culture

Ashesi University

Founding Director: Dr. Joseph Oduro-Frimpong discusses the new Center for African Popular Culture at Ashesi University.

Most academic institutions around the world have African Studies Institutes/Centers that broadly focus on the cultures, societies and history of Africa. In its goal to specifically spotlight the intellectual significance of African popular cultural genres, the Executive Board at Ashesi University agreed to establish the Center for African Popular Culture. The Center is currently a member of the Consortium for Humanities Centers and Institutes [CHCI] and its’ Founding Director is Dr. Joseph Oduro-Frimpong, a cultural anthropologist, whose research focuses on Ghanaian popular media.

With support from a dedicated association of scholars in the African popular culture community, The Centre seeks to lead and develop African popular culture scholarship; to highlight, through exhibitions, popular art forms and artists; mentor the next generation African popular culture scholars and to produce cutting edge theory to help us grasp the ‘emergent present’ of the African popular culture lifeworld.

With seed money from CHCI, The Centre, together with the Journal of African Cultures Studies organized a writing workshop for early career African scholars and also held a maiden African popular culture conference in August 2018 to discuss the cultural impact of late Ghanaian artiste, Ebony Reigns. The conference was a first attempt at promoting discussion on the work of popular cultural icons as an open window into social issues in Africa and to highlight their academic relevance. With the remaining funds, The Center, in an effort to widen current religious discussions beyond Christianity, will organize and host an exhibition on Mami Wata in early May 2019.

A key activity that is currently underway is the systematic digitization of Dr. Oduro-Frimpong’s personal collections of hand-painted book covers of some significant works on popular culture in Africa; Ghanaian hand-painted movie posters; barbershop signs; and contemporary Ghanaian obituary posters. The archive overlaps, yet links with Teju Olaniyan’s digital archive project on African political cartoons and Ato Quayson’s Accra City Project. Thus, the archive is not just a collection but a vital source with a vast theoretical, methodological and institutional footprint.

The Centre is presently exploring funding opportunities to establish a permanent facility, host scholars, artists-in-residence and exhibitions. As well, The Center seeks collaborators to host conferences and workshops.


Dr. Joseph Oduro-Frimpong is the Director of the Center for African Popular Culture, Ashesi University, Ghana, West-Africa