Africa In Our Lives: Rita Mawuena Benissan

Meet Rita Mawuena Benissan, who recently won the Racial Justice Award from the Africa Studies Program. Rita is a Ghanaian-American interdisciplinary artist, who explores the identities of Africans and African Americans while showcasing the profound beauty and power of Black culture. She is in her last year of the MFA program at UW-Madison. Her art and research celebrate African and Black Aesthetic while exploring her cross-cultural background and identity as both an African and an American woman. She considers herself a narrative photographer that engages with the mediums of painting, printmaking, and textiles.

Rita looks in depth in the understanding of the concept of the “Black Aesthetic” and its relationship to blackness in western society. Her blackness was influenced by her parents’ Ghanaian culture—which is her foundation as a Black woman. She embraces her own aesthetic, by reinterpreting the royal umbrella which is the symbol of hierarchy within the chieftaincy in Ghana.

If you have not seen Rita’s The Black Aesthetic photography series, perhaps you have come across her newest project on Instagram @Si.hene. Rita explains, “Si Hene means ‘Enstoolment’ in Akan. It serves as a source to bring forth the cultural heritage of the Chieftaincy archives of Ghana. Looking through photographic and cinematographic documents, it provides a deeper perspective and preserves the legacy of the individuals that once ruled from the 1800s to the modern-day. I hope through this project to bring more accessibility for learning about Ghana’s royal history,” Rita explains. She is currently in Ghana creating work to go toward her Master of Fine Art exhibition for this coming spring semester!

Africa in Our Lives: Rita Mawuena Benissan