These Hollywood Movie Poster Knock-Offs From West Africa Are Worth $3,000


Quick: You have an empty flour sack, some paint and a mobile impromptu movie theater to fill. The screening is a Hollywood film called Bram Stoker’s Dracula starring Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins and Keanu Reeves. You've never seen the movie, and you're not entirely sure who the actors are. What do you do?

If you're in Ghana, you do this:

Image Credit: Twisted Sifter

Although "Anthon Hopkin" and "Reeves" might object to the misrepresentation of their names, that's beside the point. The home video-driven market for Hollywood films in Ghana during the 1980s and 1990s required certain liberties be taken, to put it lightly.

Screenings of these films were unpretentious affairs. They often consisted of little more than a mobile generator, a TV and some fold up chairs. The only proven way to put butts in the seats was to create an eye-catching movie poster, frequently done without much advance notice. It was a rare luxury for the artist to actually see the film before making the poster.

The results were often outlandish, surreal riffs on iconic Hollywood blockbusters. Sometimes this meant spicing up the ad for The Spy Who Loved Me (1975) by slapping an enormous fish on the poster. At other times, it meant not knowing what Cujo (1985) actually looked like and painting him as a bashful McGruff doppelganger. Whatever it took, that's what these artists did:

All Image Credit: Twisted Sifter

Money in the bank. Since this so-called "Golden Age" of Ghanaian movie posters, these pieces have achieved a sort of cult status. According to CNN, rare vintage works from the period fetch between $1,500 and $3,000, sometimes going as high as $15,000. Some artists make a modest living reproducing them, painting every day and selling pieces for $75 or $100 a pop.

"They made images that they knew would bring people in," said African art dealer Ernie Wolfe. "No one was looking over their shoulder to tell them they couldn't do anything."