“Hand and Eye Work” in Gold Coast Colonial Modernism: A Genealogical History of Ghana’s Fossilized Art Curriculum

This text investigates the intellectual legacy of “Hand and Eye Work”, the first art-based curriculum officially introduced by the Gold Coast colonial government through the Educational Code of 1887. With a nod to Foucault’sarchaeological and genealogical methods, the text explores the Pestalozzian- Fröbelian diaspora of technical, manual and vocational training schemes including the German Gewerbeschule, the Scandinavian Slöjd system, the French metiers and the British Somerset HouseSouth Kensington “manual training” system which inspired the Gold Coast “Hand and Eye” curriculum. The study finds parallels between the manual training curricula, pedagogical models and texts purveyed in America, India and pre-Union South Africa and other nodes of the Victorian Empire. The text argues that the “bread and butter” vocational focus of the Gold Coast colonial scheme displaced the more recondite and progressive features of the Pestalozzian-Fröbelian system which had inspired it. The programme became contrived, mechanistic, and embalmed in a frozen time-capsule. It remained firewalled against contemporaneous challenges cues and potentials extant in the heritage of African visual culture and Modern art alike until G. A. Stevens, a young graduate from the Slade School, and inspired by the Progressive Education movements in Europe became art master in the Government Training College and Achimota College respectively. Echoing his mentor Roger Fry’s dictum to “get rid of all that South-Kensington nonsense”, Stevens critiqued “Hand and Eye” training thus: “There was, and is, no provision for the training of taste, appreciation, criticism, or for the slightest perception of art history”. This was the beginning of a revolution in Gold Coast art education.

Author (s) Details

Department of Painting and Sculpture, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana.

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