In the final article from our Limitless series celebrating women in male-dominated industries, we profile a TRUE Africa alum who is fast becoming one of Ghana’s leading gallerists promoting the work of emerging artists from across Africa and its diaspora.
A stylish global traveler who moves around Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, the UK, France, and the rest of the world, Adora Mba is also a Ghanaian-Nigerian-British repat who recently relocated from London to Accra because she saw an opportunity to become a defining presence on the continent’s emerging art scene. Having opened her first gallery, ADA \ Contemporary, in Accra in October 2020, she is committed to nurturing Ghana and the continent’s contemporary art community and to fostering its ties and influence amongst global audiences.
Mba says these times are exciting. Artists are converging on metropolises like Nairobi, Marrakech, Johannesburg, Dakar, and Lagos, fueling the creativity in art scenes that are now brimming with raw talent. The art market is increasingly receptive to new ideas and artistic disciplines that are being shaped by new exhibitions, art fairs, festivals, auctions, and galleries popping up all over the continent.
Mba takes pride in stating that ADA has just celebrated its first-year anniversary. And even though her approach as an art advisor and writer turned gallerist means that she must always highlight the diversity and brilliance of all of Africa’s art scenes, she does insist on the uniqueness of Accra as an art capital, as evidenced by the early commercial achievements of her gallery. Sales have been good. So good that she feels ADA is already becoming a force not just in the African art market, but also in the global art market.
Previous exhibitions crafted by this ambitious newcomer include the sold-out solo shows of emerging Nigerian artists Collins Obijiaku and Eniwaye Oluwaseyi; of rising South African star Zandile Tshabalala, Ghanaian contemporary artist Hamid Nii Nortey, British born Vincentian Ghanaian artist Emma Prempeh; and Ghanaian artist Theresah Ankomah.
“I pinch myself sometimes,” she says, “because as cheesy as it may sound, I am one of those truly living my dream come true. I was made to do this. I was born to do this. Everything I have achieved in my past has been working to this. I intend to steer my team and gallery into international growth, more partnerships and visibility. We will break barriers and expose the raw, incredible talent the African continent (and diaspora) have to offer. I want to force the world to see the artists from my home—my brothers and sisters—with the due respect they deserve.”
We asked her how she asserts herself in environments where she is often the only woman, and she says it is no easy feat. “I am in an industry that is not only mostly men but is also predominately Caucasian men. I have enjoyed being underestimated because I consistently prove my naysayers wrong, and I always trust my gut. I also have a strong community of support and mentorship which I believe is very important to navigate these waters. Being a Black and African woman (and still in my 30s) I need to have the confidence to know that I am here for a reason even though there aren’t many represented that are like me.” She feels she must continue to have faith in what she is trying to achieve.
ADA’s new show, which opens on December 10th, is devoted to the luxury menswear designer Adrien Sauvage, who is presenting a series titled I AM. The series showcases layers of merging cultures and aesthetics, expressed through the raw and vulnerable visual storytelling of authentic African narratives, capturing the carefree spirit and strength of modern Ghanaian life.
A fashion designer, costumier, and film maker, Sauvage’s body of work includes a native pictorial series he established in Accra in the mid 2000s. In this inaugural solo exhibition, Sauvage comments on Ghana’s rich social construct and attitudes, which he brings to life in photography and film. The I AM series provides an arbitrary peep hole into people and routines that inform the Ghanaian sensitivity, woven into the country’s cultural fabric.
Adora Mba is on her way to seizing global attention because she is gaining the respect of her peers as a hard-worker who happens to have an eye for talent. She is also great at forging relationships with other women in her industry. The key word for her is sisterhood. “I am a firm believer of ‘Go alone, Go Fast. Go together, Go Far,’” she says. “Community, comradery, mentorship and respect are important in the field I am in. I am in a unique position to not only learn from their mistakes but also impart mine too to the next generation.”
With thanks to Africa No Filter who made this series possible.