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This project is sponsored by the Boulder County Arts Alliance and all donations through BCAA are tax deductible. For details on how to donate, see below.
Our Goal: $300,000
Current funding: $32,000
What we need right now: $30,000
What Came Before
When Maputo was a child, in a family of highly skilled musicians, there were many cultural centers in Ghana where young people could study the traditional arts under master teachers. Maputo himself studied for 14 years at the best of them, the Academy of African Music and Arts in Kokrobite, with the renowned Mustapha Tettey Addy, one of Ghana’s leading traditional artists in music and dance. AAMA attracted artists, musicians, and teachers from elsewhere in Africa and around the world, and in its day was responsible for nurturing new generations of artists at the highest levels.
Today, however, funding for the traditional arts in Ghana has dwindled, and AAMA and many institutions like it have disappeared. Each summer, when Maputo takes a group of U.S. students to Ghana to experience the culture and learn more about its arts, the children of Kokrobite beg him to provide a place there so they can learn what the Americans are learning. Two years ago, he began to do just that.
For the Children
Maputo is devoted to building a new center for the arts in the beautiful coastal village of Kokrobite, on land he already owns. He, along with other members of the very accomplished Mensah family, will provide instruction, as will guest artists such as Mustapha Tettey Addy. This center will be a venue for teaching and preserving Ghana’s traditional arts, and will give local young people a place to grow into the next generation of world-class artists. It will also give these young ones focus and direction in life as they learn the deep cultural traditions that underpin the songs, dances, and stories of Africa.
Today, the children have no place to practice, and no one to teach them. They are hungry to learn, hungry for something positive to do, for something that gives them a sense of identity, self-respect, and hope for their futures. These kids gather to dance on the beach, by themselves. But with no instruction, they are just playing. The arts of Africa are not just entertainment; at their heart they provide a strong moral compass, teaching the values of respect, hard work, and community spirit in all things. Such values will prevent these kids from falling into drugs, drinking, and other destructive behaviors. Maputo absorbed the life-affirming values embodied in the arts of Africa from his parents and mentors, and his deepest wish is to pass them on to future generations.
For the Art
As AAMA did, the Akpe Cultural Center will also attract students of all ages from the rest of the world, including established artists wishing to infuse their own work with the sound and soul of Africa. Stevie Wonder came to AAMA; so did Rita Marley, Isaac Hayes, and Steve Coleman. The Akpe Cultural Center will preserve and offer the best in traditional African arts, but it will also provide space and opportunity for experimentation, fusion, and in many ways, therapy. Just as children are nurtured by the arts of Africa, adults discover that these arts are uniquely healing to the spirit. They are increasingly needed in today’s world.
For the People
When AAMA was open, the roads between Accra and Kokrobite were jammed each weekend with people — including high government officials and diplomats — headed to AAMA for the best in entertainment. Since AAMA’s demise, the economy of the Kokrobite area has suffered. When the Akpe Cultural Center is complete, it will once again draw visitors and generate jobs in the entire area. The whole community is excited about the project. They check progress frequently and eagerly await opening day.
Where We Are Now
The new cultural center is well underway. In the summer of 2015, thanks to small donations, foundations were laid. That winter, supporting columns were poured up to first-floor level. Last summer, 2016, clay was removed from the foundations, replaced with stable sand, and the foundations were then topped off. At the beginning of this year, 2017, we poured the first floor of the cultural center, and this past summer we completed the columns to support the second floor. Once the second floor is poured, we can raise the walls to it and make the lower level weather tight. With that done, we can install our suspended, resilient dance floor — the only one in the region.
This is a critical milestone. Once the floor is installed, we can begin to teach and host events, and the Akpe Cultural Center will start to generate its own income as construction continues.
When complete, the center will provide practice and performance space for all the African arts, along with dining facilities and accommodations for up to 40 people. Lessons and events, plus visiting students, will create a cash flow stream to help pay the teachers and sustain the center. Maputo already has educators in the U.S. and elsewhere who are waiting to bring their students to the Akpe Cultural Center. As soon as it is complete, they will start arriving.
Can You Help?
The total price tag for the project is approximately $300,000, and it will proceed in stages as funds are available. So far, a tremendous amount has been accomplished with small donations from supporters. Right now, we need $30,000 to complete the ground level to the point it can be used for lessons, practice, and events. The project’s construction and finance team were hand picked for their expertise and honesty, and they are more than living up to expectations. Rest assured that every penny received will be accounted for and put to immediate use in building the center.
The Akpe Cultural Center project is sponsored by the Boulder County Arts Alliance, and all donations to it through them are fully tax deductible. There are three ways to donate through BCAA:
1) Click on the Generosity link on this web page and follow the simple donation procedures there. All funds donated through the generosity.com campaign will go to BCAA for the Akpe Cultural Center. You will receive an email acknowledgement to use as your tax receipt.
2) Make checks payable to Boulder County Arts Alliance, with Maputo Mensah/Akpe Cultural Center in the memo line (very important!), and mail to:
Boulder County Arts Alliance
2590 Walnut St., Suite 9
Boulder, CO 80302
3) You can also donate through BCAA online at bouldercountyarts.org Be sure to choose the Akpe Cultural Center under “Arts Project.”
If you aren’t interested in the tax deduction and want the Akpe Cultural Center to have the full amount of your donation, with no fees withheld, you can donate directly to the project through Maputo Mensah. Maputo is tracking every penny that comes in and goes out, and is devoted to ensuring efficiency and accountability throughout the project.
However you choose to help, know that “Akpe” means gratitude in the Ewe language, and that you have so much of ours. You and others like you are transforming a dream into a reality that will foster the best this world has to offer for generations to come.