West Africa

Rita Benissan is Preserving The History of Royal Umbrellas

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Ghanaian-American artist Rita Mawuena Benissan is preserving the history of royal umbrellas in her upcoming solo exhibition ‘In the World Not of the World‘ at Gallery 1957. Curated by Ekow Eshun, viewers are invited to explore the mesmerizing world of Ghana’s chieftaincy through the lens of Rita Mawuena Benissan.

Image courtesy of the artist

Benissan is known for her umbrellas which have been linked to the national identity and cultural history of Ghana.  She reimagines the royal umbrella. The umbrella is a well-known protective object that she has reinterpreted as a symbol of Ghanaian identity. Through fabrication and design, she is bringing to life the beauty and strength of individuals and communities. The exhibition draws attention to that connection and the significant role umbrellas play in state occasions. Benissan’s art questions traditional concepts of power and reimagines what these traditions can mean in the current world. 

Born in 1995 in Ivory Coast, Benissan uses the royal umbrellas as a means of self-discovery and explores her rich Ghanaian heritage through a cross-disciplinary approach to artistic and research-based practice. As a visual storyteller, she creates a new visual language that speaks to the contemporary world while still paying homage to Ghana’s cultural legacy. 

Image courtesy of ARTnews

Rita Mawuena Benissan founded Si Hene, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of Ghana’s chieftaincy and traditional culture, as part of her efforts to preserve Ghana’s traditions. She has had exhibitions at Michigan State University, University of Wisconsin- Madison and the Arts + Literature Laboratory, Foundation Contemporary of Art in Ghana for the Pa Gya Festival and Afrochella Festival (2021) and Gallery 1957 (2022). She was recently in EFIE: Museum as Home, a group museum exhibition at Dortmund U in Germany, and exhibited at the 2022 Dak’Art – Biennale de l’Art Africain Contemporain at the IFAN African Art Museum, Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire in Dakar Senegal. In 2022, Benissan helped to launch the reopening of the National Museum of Ghana where she exhibited her umbrellas and presented a selection of her Si hene archival photographs. 

In 2017, she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Apparel and Textile Design from Michigan State University. She received a Master of Fine Arts in photography and an African Studies Program Certificate from the University of Wisconsin- Madison in 2021. 

 The exhibition will open on 12 May 2023 and will run through 17 June 2023. 


Iyanuoluwa Adenle is a graduate of Linguistics and African Languages from Obafemi Awolowo University. She is a creative writer and art enthusiast with publications in several journals. She is a writer at Art News Africa.

Write A Comment