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Learn more about Yaw Boakye Ghanatta

Yaw Boakye Ghanatta: A Short Biography1

Joseph Oduro-Frimpong

Centre for African Popular Culture

Ashesi University

Nana Yaw Boakye Ghanatta, (or Ghanatta), was one of Ghana’s prominent cartoonists and is credited as the “first [person who] introduced cartoons and comics into Ghanaian newspapers and magazines”2. In spite Ghanatta’s towering presence in what can be tentatively be called ‘Ghanaian cartoons studies’, not much is known about him. In this piece, I provide a narrative reconstruction this cartoonist based off his official resume.
One of the things about Ghanatta is his love for the visual arts obviously as evident in his prolific works. Ghanatta was also book collector, loved cinema and travelling, as well as enjoyed taking photos. According to him, although poetry writing was his ‘serious hobby’, one of his best times was to be alone and ‘be found deep down with nature’.  Ghanatta was born at Akim Afosu in the Eastern Region of Ghana on 27th August 1927 to Opanyin Joseph Kwadwo Boakye and Dora Abenaa Poakwaa and died in 20013.
He had six children (four males and two females). One of these children includes A. K. Yeboah with the pen-name, Homotta, famous for the cartoon strips Super Mugu Yaro (deBruijn 2017, 2018)4 as well as Gyato Magani and Baba Dogo (Amoako 1992)5. In terms of his educational background, beyond his standard seven certificate, he obtained his G.C.E Advanced Level Certificate which allowed him to attend London Art College where he got his Diploma in Press Art.
Ghanatta became a full-time professional artist in 1960 until his death. Before devoting his full time as a visual artist, he worked for the United Africa Company, Lighterage Department for two years (1951-1952). From 1953-1954, he worked at Rendell Palmer and Trithon Soil Laboratory and after this short stint at Rendell, he joined the Department of Social Welfare and Community Department for two years (1955-1957). From here, he joined Guinea Press Limited and remained there till 1960.
In 1966, (the year that President Nkrumah was overthrown) Ghanatta established Ghanatta Studios to become a key location for organized art workshop in Ghana. Beyond the studios, he also founded Cleopatra Promotions for the organization and selection of the annual Miss Africa Contest. Lastly, he established the Ghanatta College of Art, the first art college of its kind on the continent.
In terms of additional professional or institutional activities that Ghanatta was involved in, one notes that Ghanatta was the First President of the Afosu Youth Association as well as Chief Patron for Asuom Nkoso Kuw (translated as ‘Asuom Development Association’). Also, Ghanatta was the National President of the Ghana Book Designers and Illustrators’ Association. He was also the First Interim National President of the Ghana Chapter of Association of Industrial Artists and Designers. He was also a member of several professional associations such as the National Executive Council of Artists Association of Ghana; and the National Executive Council of Institution of Artists.
For someone who stridently criticized Ghana’s First President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah after his overthrow in 1966, it is intriguing to note two things about Ghanatta: he was once an Instructor for Ghana’s Young Pioneers Movement (YPM). The Young Pioneers were deemed as “a conduit through which both its members and the state could perform the generationally defined role of nation-builder” (Ahlman 2012: 99)6; second, he was the Vice President for Ghana-Bulgaria Friendship Society. The Society was one of those important vehicles which publicly mediated Ghana-Hungary cultural interactions aimed at solidifying diplomatic relations between these two nations.
Ghanatta published a number of significant works which are: Abankaba (1966); The African Sketch (1969); The Price of Freedom (1967); The New Age Magazine (1971) and The Dwarf and the Missing Girl (1984). With regards to exhibitions, Ghanatta curated several of his paintings in Bulgaria (1979), Winneba (1979), Accra (1979), Sunyani (1980) and in Oakland, U.S.A (1980). In 1984, Ghanatta held two important exhibitions on cartoons at the Goethe Institute, Accra and in Moscow, Russia. For these works, he won several awards in Bulgaria, Accra, Tokyo and Russia for his works.
With regards to varying illustrations that Ghanatta did for authors, publishers, junior, middle and secondary schools in Ghana, one notes the following: The Little Sasabonsam; Courtesy for Boys and Girls; My Uncle Jonathan; Seeing the World; The Prophet of Doom; The Messenger of Death; Karun Yini; Gongon; Saints and Social Structure in Africa; Girls’ Nudity Rites amongst the Akan; Force of Love; Sasa and Esi; The Life & Times of J. B. Danquah; History of Asante Kotoko Football Club; New Nation Magazine; Ghana Commercial Bank; The British Entry into the European Economic Community; Grocery Storage and Supply in Ghana (- work was done for the National Investment Bank in conjunction Canadian Exports); Social Security Benefits (- work done for the State Insurance Cooperation); and lastly, Campaign for Pool Staking (-work done for the Football Pools Authority).
Ghanatta also created cartoon illustrations for books, booklets, pamphlets and publicity materials for international organizations. These associations include Friedrich Ebert Foundation office in Ghana; Ghana’s Civic Education Center; Ghana Cocoa Marketing Board (on – the increase in cocoa production and on combating cocoa smuggling); Ford Foundation (on Family Planning in Ghana); Electricity Corporation of Ghana (House Magazine); Ghana Water and Sewerage Corporation (on – the Story of Water Supply); Ghana’s Ministry of Agriculture (on – Extension and Plant Quarantine Service); UNESCO (textbooks for East African secondary schools); and lastly FAO/UNDP (on fertilizer use, crop production, farm preparation and mechanization programs),
Ghanatta also produced daily cartoons strips titled ‘Kofi Brokeman’ and ‘Kofi Blowman’ for the Accra Evening News, which according to Jallow (2014) “was the official mouthpiece of [Nkrumah’s] Convention People’s Party (CPP)” (p.180). As well, Ghanatta drew the weekly cartoons ‘Kong’ for the Ghanaian Times. Also for the Weekly Spectator, Ghanatta produced ‘Kofi Brokeman’ and ‘The Triple/Single Jump’ cartoons. For the African Sketch which was also a weekly, Ghanatta produced the cartoons ‘Gakan’, ‘Slave Trade’ and ‘Kwame’. For New Age Magazine and the The Stateman which appeared monthly, Ghanatta respectively produced ‘The Abominable Caveman’ and ‘Alice in Wonderlife’. His political and other cartoons appeared in the following newspapers:  The Daily Graphic, the Mirror, The Echo, The Sporting News, The Drum, The Stateman, The Youth, and The Worker.
  1. This biography primarily draws from Nana Yaw Boakye Ghanatta’s personal curriculum vitae. I am very grateful to Ghanatta’s son, Kwame Boakye Ghanatta for his generosity in providing me with his father’s CV.
  2. This information comes from: http://www.mclglobal.com/History/Jul2001/30g2001/30g1a.html Sincere appreciation to Professor Teju Olaniyan for suggesting this source.
  3. This information comes from: http://www.mclglobal.com/History/Jul2001/30g2001/30g1a.html Sincere appreciation to Professor Teju Olaniyan for supplying  this source
  4. See: de Bruijn, E. (2017). Sensationally Reading Ghana’s Joy Ride The Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Enquiry 4(1), 27-48; de Bruijn, E. (2018). A Permissive Frame for Unruliness: The Educational Structures of Ghanaian Market Fiction. Journal of the African Literature Association 12(2), 129-152.
  5. See Amoako, F.Y.B (1992). Ghanaian Pidgin English: In Search of Diachronic, Synchronic and Sociolinguistic Evidence. A Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
  6. Ahlman, J. S. (2012). A New Type of Citizen: Youth, Gender, and Generation in the Ghanaian Builders Brigade. Journal of African History, 53, 87-105.


  • Yaw Boakye Ghanatta, Africatta: Cartoons. London: Africa Centre Gallery, 1986.
  • Chris Birago and Yaw Boakye Ghanatta, You and Your Problems. Accra: Anowuo Educational Publications, 1969.
  • Yaw Boakye Ghanatta, Price of Freedom: Life of Kotoka from Birth to Death. Accra-Tema, Ghana: State Pub. Corp., 1967.